Colorado Supreme Court Rules Local Fracking Bans and Moratoriums are Illegal

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COGA Applauds Colorado Supreme Court Ruling and Now Back to Working with Local Governments to Find Solutions

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association praised today’s state Supreme Court decision that upheld the Association’s long-held position that local fracking bans and moratoriums are illegal in Colorado. COGA President and CEO Dan Haley released the following statement:

“COGA has always maintained that these bans and moratoriums on responsible oil and gas development are illegal, and we’re pleased that today the Supreme Court of Colorado has agreed with us. This is not just a win for the energy industry but for the people of Colorado who rely on affordable and dependable energy and a strong economy. It sends a strong message to anyone trying to drive this vital industry out of the state that those efforts will not be tolerated. Bans and moratoriums on oil and gas are not a reasonable or responsible way to address local concerns.

"With this legal battle over, we look forward to working with Longmont, Fort Collins and other local communities to find a balance that allows for responsible oil and gas development while still meeting the needs of local communities under Colorado’s already rigorous regulations.”

COGA Board Chairman Brad Holly added:

"For COGA, and for the broader oil and natural gas industry, these lawsuits were an unfortunate, but necessary action, as it is imperative for our state's economy and its citizens that we strongly support the thousands of people we directly and indirectly employ, as well as their families, and the essential energy we responsibly provide. Our state and our business environment thrive when the oil and natural gas industry is allowed to operate and innovate.

"With this litigation behind us, we're excited to continue doing what we do best - safely producing the oil and natural gas we all need and working collaboratively and constructively with the state, local governments, and communities to ensure that responsible energy development continues in Colorado."

Today’s ruling upheld lower court rulings that asserted the Longmont ban and Fort Collins moratorium on hydraulic fracturing violated state law.

The first case was the City of Longmont v. COGA and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). The case involved a challenge to the Longmont ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing within its borders as well as the storage of hydraulic fracturing waste. The appeal is from Judge Dolores Mallard's decision in Boulder County court that state law operationally preempted Longmont’s ban. The Longmont case before the Colorado Supreme Court is No. 15SC667, and the decision can be read here: https://www.courts.state.co.us/userfiles/file/Court_Probation/Supreme_Court/Opinions/2015/15SC667.pdf

The second case was the City of Fort Collins v. COGA. In this case, COGA challenged the validity of Fort Collins' five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and the storage of hydraulic fracturing waste within Fort Collins. Judge Gregory M. Lammons in the Larimer County District Court held that Fort Collins' moratorium was operationally preempted because it conflicted with state law. The Fort Collins case before the Colorado Supreme Court is No. 15SC668, and the decision can be read here: https://www.courts.state.co.us/userfiles/file/Court_Probation/Supreme_Court/Opinions/2015/15SC668.pdf

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Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Can this be appealed to the US Supreme Court? It cannot. These cases don’t involve a question of federal law.

2. What does this decision mean for Broomfield, Boulder, and other jurisdictions? For Broomfield, it means that its moratorium is illegal. Broomfield would either stop enforcing it or we would sue it for a preliminary injunction. Regarding Boulder – the existing “moratorium” is as long if not longer than the Ft. Collins illegal moratorium.

3. What impact does this have on shorter moratoriums? See above

4. What impact will this decision have on the local control movement? First, it clearly states that bans are illegal and that by pursuing them they are attempting to force their political will in an area that has clearly been deemed illegal and harmful. However, that does not change industry’s approach of working with local governments to find reasonable and now clearly legal solutions for local concerns.

5. How much did this lawsuit cost taxpayers? We can only assume Longmont spent several hundred thousand dollars and Fort Collins spent a similar amount – but that would be best asked to the cities.

6. How much did this lawsuit cost COGA? Over one million dollars.

7. What impact will this decision have nationally? The decision will have no direct impact on other states because each state has its own law of oil and gas, local government control, and preemption. But the reasoning of the Court could have a substantial impact on other courts because so few cases have been decided on these issues nationally.

8. What do you hope the anti-fracking movement takes away from this decision/experience? With this decision behind us, we hope we can all – the state regulators, local governments, industry, and concerned citizens - continue to work in good faith, like in more than 30 other communities, to find reasonable solutions to address local concerns.

9. Are the courts now viewed as a friendlier avenue than the ballot box? Can we expect more lawsuits in the future? The Colorado Supreme Court is the rule of law and not political.

10. What would happen if the local government ignores the court’s ruling? We would have to file a preliminary injunction/complaint to get an expedited hearing in front of a court. If the ban or moratorium in question is very similar to Longmont’s or Fort Collins’, we would move for fees and argue that the local government is operating in bad faith.

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Rachel George
RBG Communications
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Doug Flanders
Colorado Oil and Gas Association
303-861-0362
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