Citizen actions against fracking

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Citizen action in the United States


State lawsuit

On October 16, 2012, environmental groups sued the state of California, accusing state regulators at the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources with failing to evaluate the risks of fracking, even as fracking was used for 600 wells in 2011. Earthjustice filed the lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthworks, the Environmental Working Group, and the Sierra Club.[1]

Federal lawsuit

Hydraulic Fracturing in Inglewood

In late December 2011, environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management claiming the bureau leased more than 2,500 acres of public land in Monterey and Fresno counties to oil companies without doing a thorough analysis of the potential environmental impacts of fracking.[2] The lessees have 10 years to develop the land, after which it reverts back to the federal government if not drilled.[3]

On April 8, 2013 a federal judge ruled that the Obama Administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued oil leases in Monterey County, Calif., without considering the environmental impacts. As reported by Bloomberg: "U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal in San Jose, California, said the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act by relying on outdated reviews, conducted before the extraction process known as fracking spurred massive development of energy deposits, when the U.S. sold four leases in 2011 for 2,700 acres of federal land in Monterey and Fresno counties."[4]

Santa Barbara County

In June 2011, Los Alamos rancher and vineyard owner Steve Lyons contacted Santa Barbara county officials after discovering that Venoco had fracked a well on his property. After a series of public hearings and forums, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors decided unanimously in December 2011 that companies planning to frack would have to apply for a special permit from the county planning commission.[5]

Monterey County

After a Monterey county administrator approved a Venoco permit for nine exploratory wells using hydraulic fracturing, a local land trust appealed. The issue was set to be heard at an Oct. 26, 2011 planning commission meeting, but Venoco pulled its permit application after the commission released a meeting agenda noting that it recommended supporting the appeal and denying the project.

Los Angeles County

On May 15, 2012, Food & Water Watch joined with Gasland's Josh Fox, Environment California, Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community, Grassroots Coalition, and residents of surrounding neighborhoods to call for a ban on fracking in California, presenting the signatures of 50,000 Californians who have signed petitions supporting a ban. The protest was held at the Inglewood Oil Field in Baldwin Hills, the largest urban oilfield in the nation that also sits atop a fault line capable of 7.4 magnitude earthquake.[6]

On June 12, 2012 Food & Water Watch held a protest outside Culver City City Hall, demanding that fracking in Culver City and beyond be banned. In addition, a group called “Moms Against Fracking + Dads Too” was also meeting to participate in the protest event.[7]

On February 20, 2013 a group of California residents yesterday denounced the state's proposed rules on hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas. About 80 people who filled a hotel ballroom here rattled off what they saw as flaws with the draft regulations, including that the proposed rule fails to provide enough advance warning when fracking will occur and would not force public disclosure of all chemicals used.[8]

Long Beach, California has employed fracking for the past 17 years. The city's Department of Gas and Oil estimates less than 10 percent of wells involve the process. Long Beach averages five 'fracs' per year, all under the oversight of the state's Department of Oil and Gas. Additionally no contamination has been detected in local groundwater supplies, which produce about 60 percent of Long Beach's drinking water. This oil is being produced in the Wilmington field, near the Long Beach Oil Field.[9]

Culver City

On July 2, 2012, the Culver City Council approved a resolution urging Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources to impose a ban on hydraulic fracturing until regulations have been adopted ensuring the protection of public health, safety, and the environment. The council’s unanimous decision came a week before the completion of a PXP fracking study at the Inglewood oil field.[10]


Western Voices -- Rifle


In November 2013 Lafayette residents voted 60% to 40% for an all-out ban on new oil and gas drilling in the city.[11]


On May 13, 2013 Boulder, Colorado moms, children and activists delivered several hundred postcards Monday to the three county commissioners before holding a rally on the Boulder County Courthouse lawn, urging the commissioners to extend a fracking moratorium. The commissioners were planning to discuss imposing transportation impact fees on oil and gas companies drilling and operating wells in the county the same week.[12]

In May 2013, the Boulder County commissioners voted 2-1 not to extend their moratorium on fracking, which will expire in June 2013. The commissioners cited the potential to get sued in their reasoning to let the ban expire.[13]

In November 2013 nearly 80 percent of Boulder residents voted in favor of a five-year extension of the city's fracking moratorium.[11]


The Denver suburb of Broomfield passed a five-year fracking moratorium on the by 20 votes of 20,000 cast in November 2013. In February 2014, a judge upheld the results stating that while the election had flaws it was not illegal, which some pro-fracking supporters had claimed.[14]

Fort Collins

In March 2013, the Fort Collins city council passed a ban on fracking that grandfathered in the one driller, Prospect Energy, that currently operates on eight well pads in northern Fort Collins. Three weeks later, in a quiet vote without public input, the city council passed an “agreement” with the driller allowing the company to drill and frack on two new square miles of land surrounding the Budweiser brewery in North Fort Collins.[15]

In May 2013, the Fort Collins City Council overturned the fracking ban in a sharply divided 4-3 vote. The mayor pro tem cited an impending threat of a lawsuit from Prospect Energy for why he changed his vote.[16]

In November 2013 over 55 percent of Fort Collins residents voted in favor of a five-year fracking moratorium in the city.[11]

El Paso County moratorium

In September 2011, El Paso County Commission voted to impose a four-month moratorium on issuing permits for activities involving oil and gas drilling, to provide time to determine whether the Colorado county needs additional regulations on drilling.[17]

Loveland considers water ban for fracking

The City of Loveland's water utility has been selling water to suppliers of the oil and natural gas industry from metered city hydrants for use in controversial hydraulic fracturing processes to recover petroleum. In April 2012, city councilors began a process to decide whether the city will join Northern Colorado neighbors Fort Collins and Boulder in barring water sales for fracking.[18]

Longmont voters ban fracking, court overturns

In May 2012, the Longmont ballot issue committee Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont filed a notice of intent with the Longmont City Clerk to put a charter amendment on the November 2012 ballot to ban hydraulic fracturing within Longmont city limits. According to Food & Water Watch, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the Colorado Attorney General have tried to weaken Longmont's local regulations for oil and gas drilling, such as prohibiting drilling in residential areas, spurring the amendment. If successful, Longmont would be the first city in Colorado to ban fracking.[19]

In June 2012 the group Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, began a petition drive to ban fracking within city limits.[20] The ban — Ballot Question 300 — was passed by majority vote in the November 2012 election, and will amend Longmont's city charter to ban hydraulic fracturing and the storage of fracking waste in city limits.

The oil and gas industry fought the ban, giving $507,500 to the opposing group Main Street Longmont. The Colorado Supreme Court has forbidden cities from banning oil and gas drilling outright, but has decided lesser measures on a case-by-case basis. Gov. John Hickenlooper said that passage of Ballot Question 300 would likely bring a second lawsuit from the state.[21]

However, in late July 2014, a Colorado judge overturned the city's ban on fracking. Boulder County District Court Judge D.D. Mallard wrote in his decision, “While the court appreciates the Longmont citizens’ sincerely held beliefs about risks to their health and safety, the court does not find this is sufficient to completely devalue the state’s interest." Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation were plaintiffs in the case. Environmental groups in Colorado vowed to appeal the decision. Judge Mallard allowed the ban to remain in place while an appeal was sought.[22]

Colorado Springs group sues to allow vote on fracking ban

In May 2013 a citizens group based in Colorado Springs was reported to have "sued the city of Colorado Springs in an effort to move forward a petition to amend the City Charter to ban oil and gas drilling in the city. The Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights filed the lawsuit in 4th Judicial District Court in response to the city's Initiative Title Setting Review Board's refusal to affix a title to the petition. The title is needed before signatures can be gathered; the board rejected the petition, saying it violates the city's single-subject rule. The proposed charter amendment, which the group wants to see on the November ballot, would prohibit any company from engaging 'in the extraction of natural gas or oil, ' including the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking."[23]

Citizens march to deliver signatures opposing fracking operation

In June 2012 a group of mothers and children living in Colorado marched into EnCana Corporation headquarters in Denver to deliver a petition signed by 21,000 people demanding the company pull the plug on its project near the town of Erie, Colorado. Encana is preparing to drill a well in Canyon Creek, where a prairie rife with birds and a wetland alive with waterfowl separate it from hundreds of houses in the nearby Creekside neighborhood. An elementary school is located a few hundreds yards south of the drilling site, which is at a legal distance.

Industry representatives dismissed the petition. A large rally was planned for June 9, 2012 to try to draw more attention to the drilling noise and pollution that burden affected citizens.[24]

Public Trust Initiatives

Phil Doe of Littleton and Richard Hamilton of Fairplay have introduced Public Trust Initiatives 3 and 45 to protect state waters. Initiative 3 would apply the common-law doctrine of “public trust” to water rights, and make “public ownership of such water legally superior to water rights, contracts, and property law.” It would also grant unrestricted public access to natural streams and their banks. Initiatives 45 would amend Article XVI, Section 6 of the state constitution to limit, and possibly prohibit, stream diversions that would “irreparably harm the public ownership interest in water.” In April 2012, the Colorado Supreme Court cleared the way for the initiatives to proceed. In order for them to appear on the November 2012 ballot, each initiative must get 86,000 signatures by August 6, 2012,[25] but they did not receive the required signatures to appear on the ballot.

Voters in four Colorado cities call for timeout on fracking

It was reported in October 2013 that four ballot measures put forth by residents of Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette, Colorado that will give voters the chance to declare timeout — and, in one case, ban new fracking projects and industry-waste disposal.[26] In November voters in the Colorado cities of Boulder, Fort Collins and Lafayette, approved antifracking initiatives by wide margins.[27]


March 2012: Illinois residents take on fracking

Several Illinois organizations state that fracking is not safe. One group includes Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment, or S.A.F.E., which is trying to warn homeowners that it could do a lot more damage than energy companies are leading on. The groups are forming a campaign to educate the public about fracking issues in the state.[28]

March 2013: Illinois Residents Vow Civil Disobedience As Fracking Bill Goes Into Effect

In March 2013 Illinois citizens opposing fracking protested at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illnois in an effort to pressure lawmakers for a two-year moratorium on fracking. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn had previously signed new legislation that many anti-fracking advocates have vowed to resist because many of the chemicals used in the process would not be released to the public because they were deemed “trade secrets".[29]


February 2013: Anti-fracking ballot measure approved

In February 15, 2013 it was reported that Michigan's Board of State Canvassers approved a ballot initiative petition on fracking by Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a ballot question committee. A second approval was given on April 17, 2013 for a revised ballot wording. The Committee's ballot initiative is a "legislative proposal," a process spelled out in the Michigan state constitution, that allows citizens to write their own law, collect signatures from Michigan voters and put the proposal before voters at the next statewide election in November 2014.

Reuters reported that "The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is proposing a voter initiative to amend state law and ban fracking, a form of natural gas extraction."

The ballot initiative language is available on the Michigan Secretary of State's website.[30] Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is a citizen-led ballot initiative.[31] The proposal would prohibit horizontal hydraulic fracturing and horizontal hydraulic fracturing wastes, and eliminate the state's policy of fostering the natural gas industry along the most favorable conditions to maximize production of natural gas and oil.


June 2012: People's assembly

Environmental activist Bill McKibben,, Gasland director Josh Fox, and Ohio environmental activists and groups are aiming to assemble what they hope in a public letter will be the largest demonstration against natural-gas fracking in U.S. history. The action will happen in Columbus, Ohio on June 14–17, culminating on the last day with a takeover of the statehouse for “a people’s assembly" to pass legislation to stop fracking in the state.

The actions is in response to Ohio Governor John Kasich's efforts to increase fracking in the state. The protest organizers also want to take advantage of Ohio’s swing-state status: “as the nation’s attention turns to Ohio for the election this fall, it is a fitting place to make a stand and say that this process must stop once and for all."[32]

June 2012: Moratorium on water sales

Less than a week after dozens of environmental activists rallied outside its annual meeting, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District reversed course in June 2012 and decided to temporarily halt the sale of water to oil and gas drillers.[33]

July 2012: Residents blockade Ohio injection well

It was reported on July 16, 2012 that Ohio residents blocked access to an injection well in Trumbull County, protesting "the failure of Ohio regulators to adequately test and monitor dumping of toxic fracking waste." One activist locked himself to the gate to prevent trucks from entering the site. Two activists were detained, and the supporter locked to the gate was eventually and safely removed by authorities and placed under arrest.[34]

November 2012: Mansfield bill of rights

In the November 2012 election Mansfield voters approved a community bill of rights prohibiting hydraulic fracturing injection wells in the city, located in the Utica Shale basin between Cleveland and Columbus. Industry front groups including Energy in Depth (EID) and Energy Citizens (a front group of the American Petroleum Institute) led the charge in the astroturf campaign to try and defeat the bill.[35]

March 2013: Groups call for EPA to step in over fracking wastewater

In March 2013, three activist groups asked the EPA to supersede Ohio's authority in regulating fracking waste disposal. The Ohio office of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice; ProgressOhio; and the Buckeye Forest Council jointly issued a request for EPA action on March 2013, arguing in a letter that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has not done enough in its oversight of fracking waste. It was reported that an "EPA spokesman said the agency is reviewing the letter, which calls for the federal body to audit and investigate the Ohio DNR. Under a national program, Ohio has the right to monitor its own wells, but a string of recent incidents led the coalition of environmental and community groups to question the state's effectiveness."[36]

July 2013: Hundreds protest fracking waste

According to EcoWatch in July 2013, a "coalition of local, statewide and national groups concerned about toxic waste from hydraulic fracturing ... converged on Portage and Trumbull counties ... for Don’t Frack Ohio 2.0. The coalition called for an end to the state being used as a regional dumping ground for oil and gas waste. The rally drew 250 participants in an area heavily targeted by the oil and gas industry for disposal of toxic radioactive drilling waste from fracking."[37]

Citizen action in the United Kingdom

UK Direct Action Shuts Down Fracking Company Headquarters

It was reported in August 19, 2013 that "anti-fracking protestors from Reclaim the Power have targeted Cuadrilla at locations across the United Kingdom, shutting down their headquarters in Lichfield, their PR company in London and the Balcombe drill site. Campaigners condemned violent policing at the gates of the drill site, where police charged, shoved and kettled a group that included children, people in wheelchairs, pensioners, journalists and Member of Parliament (MP) Caroline Lucas."[38]

Anti-fracking protesters camp out at exploratory oil drilling plant in West Sussex

On September 30, 2013 Anti-fracking protesters began a slow withdrawal from their camp outside an exploratory oil drilling plant in West Sussex. As the Guardian reported, "Tents, banners and makeshift structures were being cleared from verges on the outskirts of Balcombe following two months of protests. Campaigners have promised to vacate the site, which became the national focus of anti-fracking sentiment, by 8 October, but say they will come back if energy company Cuadrilla returns. The firm dismantled its drill rig and left the site last week after completing test drilling earlier this month."[39]

Protesters occupy proposed fracking site

In mid-August 2014 several hundred anti-fracking protesters took over a field near a proposed shale gas exploration site in the Fylde area, east of Blackpool. The site would be the first fracking test operation in the UK.[40]

Fracking protesters superglue themselves to environment department

On August 18, 2014, anti-fracking protesters superglued themselves to the doors at the main entrance of the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Additionally, The Guardian reported that another protest took place "at the offices of iGas, the UK’s biggest shale gas company, which has seen two entrances blockaded by campaigners ... The activists from the Reclaim the Power camp at Blackpool say the protest is against 63 redactions in a government report released last week on the potential impacts of shale gas exploration on rural communities."[41] The actions were part of a day of action organized by anti-fracking activists in the UK.[42]



  1. "Environmental groups sue California regulator over fracking," Reuters, Oct 16, 2012.
  2. Michael J. Mishak, "Oil extraction method widely used in California with little oversight," LA Times, March 14, 2012.
  3. "Environmental groups sue to prevent fracking in Calif." Tia Ghose, California Watch, December 19, 2011.
  4. "First California Fracking Challenge Is Defeat for U.S." Karen Gullo, Bloomberg, April 8, 2013.
  5. Cooley, M., news/local/govt-and-politics/county-levelfracking-rules-get-board-ok/article_c4a7c704-20a6-11e1-9902-0019bb2963f4.html "County-level ‘fracking’ rules get board OK," Santa Maria Times, December 7, 2010.
  6. "Citizens, Groups Calling for a Ban on Fracking in California," Food & Water Watch, May 15, 2012.
  7. "Culver City Moms (and Dads) Unite Against Fracking" Crystal C. Alexander, Culver City Patch, June 11, 2012.
  8. "Calif. walloped with criticisms on proposed fracking rules" Energy Wire, February 20, 2013.
  9. "Cal Assembly bill seeks to force disclosure of chemicals used in drilling wells" Kristopher Hanson, Press-Telegram, June 28, 2011.
  10. "Culver City Council calls on state to ban fracking temporarily," LA Times, July 3, 2012.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 John Aguilar, "Anti-fracking measures win in Lafayette, Boulder, Fort Collins," Daily Camera, Nov 5, 2013.
  12. "Boulder County moms rally against fracking" Amy Bounds, Daily Camera, May 13, 2013.
  13. Troy Hooper, "Litigation threat causes Boulder, Fort Collins to end fracking bans," The Boulder Journal, May 22, 2013.
  14. "Judge upholds Broomfield fracking ban vote" Associated Press, February 28, 2014.
  15. "All Eyes on Fort Collins Fracking Ban Vote," EcoWatch, April 22, 2013.
  16. Troy Hooper, "Litigation threat causes Boulder, Fort Collins to end fracking bans," The Boulder Journal, May 22, 2013.
  17. "Oil companies rushing to buy leases along Colorado's Front Range" Mark Jaffe, The Denver Post, October 23, 2011.
  18. "City of Loveland ponders water sales for oil, gas drilling" Tom Hacker, The Denver Post, April 23, 2012.
  19. "Petition Drive Announced to Stop Fracking in Longmont: If Successful, Longmont Would be the First Colorado City to Ban Fracking," Food & Water Watch Press Release, May 30, 2012.
  20. "Longmont activists start anti-fracking petition drive" Scott Rochat, Longmont Times-Call, June 8, 2012.
  21. Scott Rochat, "Ballot Question 300: Longmont fracking ban storms to victory," The Denver Post, Nov. 6, 2012.
  22. "Colorado Judge Strikes Down Longmont’s Fracking Ban in Favor of ‘State’s Interest’ in Oil and Gas" Brandon Baker, EcoWatch, July 25, 2014.
  23. "Colorado Springs group sues to allow vote on fracking ban" Ned Hunter, The Gazette, May 10, 2013.
  24. "Fracking under way near Colorado schools" Troy Hooper, The Colorado Independent, June 5, 2012.
  25. Heather Hansen, "Will Colorado Transform its Water Law to Prioritize the Public Good? Colorado could amend its constitution to value public use over private and limit water diversions that negatively affect public uses," Alternet, June 15, 2012.
  26. "Voters in four Colorado cities may call timeout on fracking" The Denver Post, October 13, 2013.
  27. "Colorado Cities’ Rejection of Fracking Poses Political Test for Natural Gas Industry" Michael Wines, New York Times, November 7, 2013.
  28. "Residents Take On Fracking Companies", March 25, 2012.
  29. "Illinois Residents Vow Civil Disobedience As Fracking Bill Goes Into Effect" Trisha Marczak, MintPress News, June 19, 2013.
  30. Michigan Secretary of State, "[1]."
  31. Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, [2]."
  32. "Ohio fracking is latest target for anti-Keystone activists," Grist, April 10, 2012.
  33. Russ Zimmer, "Conservancy district stops fracking water sales," Central, Jun. 8, 2012.
  34. "Mid-West Fracking Actions Escalate As Residents Blockade Ohio Injection Well" Scott Parkin, It's Getting Hot in Here, July 16, 2012.
  35. Steve Horn, "Chesapeake Energy Tied to Mansfield, OH Bill of Rights Astroturf Attack," DeSmog Blog, Nov. 6, 2012.
  36. "OHIO: Groups call for EPA to step in over fracking wastewater" E&E, March 20, 2013.
  37. "Hundreds Protest Radioactive Fracking Waste in Ohio " EcoWatch, July 30, 2013.
  38. "UK Direct Action Shuts Down Fracking Company Headquarters, PR Firm and Well Site" EcoWatch, August 19, 2013.
  39. "Anti-fracking protesters pull out of Balcombe camp" The Guardian, September 30, 2013.
  40. "Protesters occupy field near Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking site in Blackpool" Nishad Karim, The Guardian, August 14, 2014.
  41. "Fracking protesters superglue themselves to environment department" Adam Vaughan , The Guardian, August 18, 2014.
  42. "Anti-fracking group stages day of action" Helen Pidd, August 18, 2014.

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