State’s high court calls Longmont, Fort Collins measures on fracking “invalid and unenforceable”
By Bruce Finley – The Denver Post – May 2, 2016
The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday blocked a push by Front Range cities to limit oil and gas development near people, ruling state power to promote industry trumps local bans, which the court deemed “invalid and unenforceable.”
The court rejected Fort Collins’ five-year moratorium on fracking within the city limits. Justices concluded that measure “operationally conflicts” with state law and therefore, under well-established principles, is pre-empted by state rules that allow some drilling in neighborhoods. They also rejected Longmont’s 2012 ban on fracking and disposal of fracking waste in the city because it “materially impedes” state power.
It is a landmark decision redefining Colorado’s landscape for producing fossil fuels — one that ignited passions on both sides at a time of intensifying political controversy.
Colorado has emerged as a leading oil and gas producer with more than 50,000 active wells and more than 45,000 inactive wells. While companies want to be able to increase production, residents are revving ballot campaigns to amend the constitution or give locals more power to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the industry’s method of rocketing sand, millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground to accelerate extraction of oil and gas.
“The oil and gas industry is thrilled,” Colorado Petroleum Council director Tracee Bentley said. “This very well could mean that anti-oil and gas forces bring forth ballot initiatives. Oil and gas is ready to stand up for Colorado consumers and for Colorado’s place in the American energy renaissance.”
The rulings vindicated Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has backed the industry, with the state joining lawsuits against Longmont and Fort Collins.
“We appreciate the Supreme Court’s guidance on balancing private property rights and local government jurisdiction of oil and gas operations in Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement.
“We believe collaboration is better than litigation and careful regulation is better than legislation to strike balance. … We’ll continue to work creatively and energetically with communities and industry to ensure our world-class environment is protected while remaining a place that is welcoming to business and jobs.”
Colorado Oil and Gas Association president Dan Haley said the court “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.”