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Colorado Court Invalidates Longmont Fracking Ban

Stephanie Paige Ogburn
A maze of pipes used for hydraulically fracturing wells, on a well pad near the city of Longmont.

A Boulder district court judge has ruled that the city of Longmont's ban on hydraulic fracturing is invalid.

The city had been sued by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the state of Colorado's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission after it passed a measure banning the practice within city limits in November 2012

The ban, the first in the state, kicked off what has become a series of bans or moratoriums in Front Range cities as drilling activities move ever close to residential areas.

Tisha Schuller, head of COGA, one of the plaintiffs, was pleased with the decision.

"The judge's decision reaffirms that local jurisdictions can’t ban fracking, and that's something to celebrate for the industry, but also for the state of Colorado, because oil and gas development is an activity of statewide interest," Schuller said.

Citing a 1992 court case where the court overturned a Greeley ban on drilling in city limits, the judge found that the ban fails a four-part test that balances whether local laws can preempt state law.

"The Court finds Article XVI of the Longmont Municipal Charter, which bans hydraulic fracturing and the storage and disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste in the City of Longmont, is invalid as preempted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act."

The ruling does not allow fracking to begin immediately; the judge issued a stay giving the city time to appeal. This decision is the first court case on a fracking ban to be decided in the state.

Advocates for the city's ban vow to appeal Thursday’s ruling. Kaye Fissinger, president of Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont said while they’re disappointed by the ruling, the court’s decision to immediately stay the decision gives her hope.

"We're expecting this, all the way along the line, that this would be a back and forth kind of issue that would not be settled by a district court, however the judge ruled," she said. "One side or the other would appeal. We, especially 'Our Longmont,' have vowed to take this all to the Supreme Court if that's what’s required."

Several other cities have also passed bans or moratoriums on fracking within city limits. The city of Lafayette, which has also passed a ban on fracking, and Fort Collins, which passed a five-year moratorium, are both being sued by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

You can read the decision in full below:

Stephanie Paige Ogburn has been reporting from Colorado for more than five years, primarily from the Western Slope.
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