Posted by Patricia M. Flannery, Esq. on Nov 6, 2013 3:24:00 PM

Yesterday, voters in several Colorado and Ohio cities and towns voted on a series of fracking bans and restrictions. Voters in Colorado municipalities Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins, and Lafayette decided whether to pass restrictions on “fracking” in those communities. Residents in Boulder and Fort Collins approved five-year fracking moratoriums. At last count, the Broomfield vote was nearly tied, and only 13 votes separated the two sides. Lafayette’s measure, one that bans fracking completely, also passed.

Two of three Ohio cities rejected similar restrictions on fracking. Ohio voters in Youngstown and Bowling Green voted down similar bans, but restrictions were passed in Oberlin. Ohio is often referred to as the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” Beyond the concern about the health effects, however, the fracking debate often pits a state against its political subdivisions, arguing about which entity has the authority to restrict drilling.

The Boulder, Fort Collins, and Lafayette bans were approved against an ominous backdrop. Another Colorado city, Longmont, voted to ban fracking within city limits in 2012. As a result, Longmont was sued by the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, who argued that the Longmont residents’ vote overstepped local authority. That case will go to trial in August of next year. Opponents of fracking bans in other states have made the same argument. Other cities across the country will be watching the Colorado and Ohio results – and any ensuing litigation – closely.

Concerns about fracking – technically known as “hydraulic fracturing” – have only increased since the controversial practice has become much more widespread. Those concerns have culminated in the Colorado and Ohio ballot measures. While the ultimate outcomes of the moratoriums are unknown, what is known is that the fracking process uses highly toxic chemicals, including, among others, glycol ethers. Glycol ethers have long been known to have a direct effect on the human reproductive system. These chemicals, normally used as degreasers in the manufacturing industry, have been epidemiologically linked to birth defects in children whose mothers suffered exposure while pregnant. With fracking, which utilizes mass quantities of chemicals in an effort to free underground oil and gas, the concern is that glycol ethers and other chemicals will ultimately reach and affect the water table – leaching into wells and water supplies.

Advocates for fracking argue that the process is safe and that the chemicals will not affect human health. But there has been at least one instance of a fracking company compensating a homeowner for damage. Recently, a southwestern Pennsylvania family received a $750,000 settlement over a suit alleging water contamination. The Hallowich family claimed that nearby fracking operations poisoned their water with acrinonitrile, a cancer-causing fracking chemical. A concentration of 30 times greater than safe levels was found in the Hallowich’s drinking water. The Hallowich family also experienced burning eyes, sore throats, and other symptoms, and their children may have future injuries from the chemical exposure.

Current fracking efforts across the country are intense, despite a current glut of oil and gas supplies. Those communities that seek to ban the practice, like Longmont, may face the dilemma of either accepting the practice, or being sued for blocking it.

Thornton Law Firm has represented individuals affected by toxic and environmental harm for 40 years. The firm’s lawyers have fought the tobacco, lead paint, asbestos, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries successfully on behalf of individual and class clients. Currently, the firm represents many clients whose children have suffered severe birth defects as a result of a parent’s chemical exposure – including exposure to glycol ethers. If you have questions about your legal rights, call Thornton Law Firm at 1-888-491-9726 today and a lawyer will be happy to speak with you and answer your questions.

Additional resources:

For more information on fracking and to locate a well near you, see the chemical disclosure registry,

For a detailed GIS map of past and present fracking in Colorado see the CO Oil and Gas Commission’s map of wells.