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State Suing Longmont Over Oil and Gas Regulations

Kirk Siegler

The state is asking a judge to invalidate parts of a newly passed ordinance in Longmont that seeks to ban oil and gas drilling from residential neighborhoods in the city.

In the filing in Boulder county district court, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers representing the state’s oil and gas conservation commission, argues some of Longmont’s recently passed oil and gas regulations conflict with state law.

Colorado regulators have long pointed to the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Act in making their case against local governments implementing their own drilling rules, calling the resource a "state interest." 

And according to the suit:

"The development of oil and gas resources is a matter of statewide concern. Recent amendments to the Act and its implementing regulations preempt the City from regulating certain aspects of oil and gas operations."  

Longmont is one of several Front Range cities and counties that lie above the Niobrara shale formation that have tried to temporarily ban drilling while local laws are updated.  Longmont officials have argued local governments do have the authority to regulate all kinds of industrial activity - drilling included - through local land use codes. 

City council member Brian Bagley and others have outlined their case to KUNC recently

The Longmont Times-Call reported earlier this week that the then expected lawsuit by the state would be uncharted legal territory.

For now, state officials aren't giving interviews citing the pending litigation.  A spokesman for Colorado Department of Natural Resources director Mike King, who oversees the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission did email KUNC a statement, which is paraphrased below.

This is a necessary step to get guidance from the courts.  We've collaborated successfully with communities for decades on oil and gas development, and parties have traditionally been able to work through issues without drawing hard lines. In the case of Longmont, the community has taken a position we think jeopardizes efficient and orderly development of a resource all citizens depend upon. Citizens in Longmont and across the state deserve a clearer sense of authority on this matter, and so we think it's time to turn to the courts for direction and resolution.

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
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