Almonte al Dia: Colorado Supreme Court strikes down local fracking bans


Almonte Al Dia

May 2, 2016

Vast supplies of clean, affordable natural gas unleashed by hydraulic fracturing have allowed natural gas to produce much more of American’s electricity. The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that locals bans and moratoriums on fracking in Longmont and Fort Collins are “invalid and unenforceable”.

The Court’s opinion on the Longmont ban, written by Justice Richard Gabriel, cited a lower District Court ruling that the Oil and Gas Conservation Act, a state statute, holds sway over Longmont’s fracking ban. The oil and gas industry in Colorado and other states has historically been regulated by the state, not local, government.

“Applying well-established preemption principles, the supreme court [sic] concludes that that the City of Longmont’s ban on fracking and the storage disposal of wastes within its city limits operationally conflicts with with applicable state law,” the judges wrote.

Bans and moratoriums on oil and gas are not a reasonable or responsible way to address local concerns.

“And Longmont’s fracking ban could result in uneven and potentially wasteful production of oil and gas from pools that underlie Longmont but that extend beyond its city limits”, he added. The Legislature has mostly stayed out of the issue this year, waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision. Longmont’s ban was voted into place in 2012.

Likewise, the court found that Fort Collins’ five-year moratorium, which voters approved in 2013, renders state regulations “superfluous” until 2018. The Colorado Supreme Court determined Monday that only the state has the legal authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, striking down a pair of city level bans on the process. The case headed all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court, where justices ruled against the cities. Our state and our business environment thrive when the oil and natural gas industry is allowed to operate and innovate.

Fort Collins city attorney Carrie Daggett said it will review the court’s decision “carefully and fully to evaluate how it affects the City”. Representatives for the City of Longmont or the City of Fort Collins did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment. The industry says fracking is safe and that drilling companies take steps to minimize the disturbances. “Local governments should be able to use their authority to ensure that fracking doesn’t cause the pollution, 24-hour noise and semi-truck traffic that have occurred in numerous Colorado communities”.

Earthjustice represented Conservation Colorado in an amicus brief supporting the Fort Collins moratorium. The ruling will have an impact on other Front Range communities – including Broomfield, Lafayette, and Boulder – that have approved restrictions on fracking. Longmont, and local governments, did have a small victory out of Monday’s decision. Meanwhile, opponents of fracking decried the ruling, saying it flies in the face of a community’s ability to safeguard its health.

The Sierra Club, which intervened in the Longmont case, called the decisions deeply unsettling. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association sued both cities, and lower courts threw out the ban and moratorium.

“Today’s ruling protects Colorado’s robust energy portfolio and energy independence, and sends a strong message to the deceptive anti-energy extremists”, Jonathan Lockwood, the executive director of the pro-free market group Advancing Colorado, said in a pres statement.