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Court Denies Fort Collins' Request To Halt Fracking While City Appeals Ruling

KUNC File Photo
A drilling rig in Northern Colorado.

The city of Fort Collins has once again been rebuffed in its efforts to keep hydraulic fracturing out of city limits.

On Friday, Dec. 12, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled the city cannot prevent fracking while it appeals an earlier court decision striking down its moratorium on the practice.

In August, the city's five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, passed by voters in 2013, was struck down. The city had been sued by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association over this ban.

In September, the city council voted voted 6-1 to appeal the decision that overturned the moratorium. While it pursued this appeal, the city had asked the court to let it to keep a pause on fracking in place. Friday's ruling denied that request, and means the fracking moratorium will not be in effect while that appeal moves forward. 

In a statement, Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, applauded the decision.

"Once again, Colorado courts have ruled against legal maneuvers seeking to stop the highly regulated process of hydraulic fracturing," said Schuller.

The appeals court also denied a request by third parties to intervene in the court case.

Fort Collins city councilman and mayor pro tem Gerry Horak said he was "disappointed that the appeals court denied the stay." Horak said the city still plans to file their appeal of the August ruling invalidating the moratorium. 

The Fort Collins councilman also said he had not been notified of any company plans to drill in city limits. With the price of oil dropping, it is unlikely companies will be pursuing new wells in the area, he said.

As energy exploration has boomed near Colorado towns, a number of municipalities have sought to ban fracking or have added control over how drilling occurs within their bounds. Governor John Hickenlooper's oil and gas task force is scheduled to make recommendations on how to best address this conflict between local control and mineral owners rights to drill. 

In an earlier interview, Horak had expressed frustration that cities had been repeatedly rebuffed in their efforts to regulate drilling activity. Today, the councilman reiterated his lack of faith that the governor's task force would be able to come a conclusion that all sides agreed on.

"That 20-some people agree on meaningful regulations, meaningful law that would satisfy the urban environmental interests and satify the development interests, I don't think [the chances are] very high," said Horak.

The task force has been holding public meetings across the state and is scheduled to submit its recommendations to the governor on February 27.

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