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Colorado Regulators Drop Lawsuit Against Longmont Drilling Rules

Jim Hill
A drill site in Frederick abuts a residential neighborhood, August 2013. The growth of drilling near Front Range population centers has led cities and counties to pass stricter controls on the activity..

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is dropping a lawsuit it filed against the city of Longmont and its oil and gas regulations, it announced Thursday.

The vote to dismiss the lawsuit followed the earlier announcement by Governor John Hickenlooper of a compromise between oil and gas supporters and opponents. Part of the compromise involved removing four measures from the November ballot, and the dismissal of the COGCC lawsuit against Longmont.

The commission voted unanimously to dismiss the lawsuit. They also agreed not to sue again over the existing ordinance, but did retain the right to sue Longmont at a later date.

In 2012, the city of Longmont passed a set of rules that would strictly regulate oil and gas development, and were sued by the state over those rules. The rules included the ability to require water testing until five years after a well is abandoned, and a ban on surface drilling in residential areas – although companies can ask for an exception if there is no other way for them to access their mineral rights.

Other Colorado counties and municipalities also regulate oil and gas using surface use regulations, although Longmont's requirements were stricter than most.

Currently, the rules are not being implemented because a voter-passed ban on hydraulic fracturing in the city has shut down any drilling that would happen in city limits. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, later joined by the COGCC, sued Longmont over that ban. A judge just ruled the ban unconstitutional, but it remains in place while the city decides whether or not to appeal the ruling.

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