Colorado Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled that state laws protecting the oil and gas industry overrule a hydraulic fracturing ban in Longmont [.pdf] and a five-year moratorium in Fort Collins [.pdf], calling both of the voter-approved moves "invalid and unenforceable." While the industry sees the decision as a big win, opponents view the ballot box as the likely outlet now for gaining more local control.
Fort Collins and Longmont's oil and gas control measures were the headline examples, but they weren't alone in the state. What happens now with similar efforts in Boulder County and Broomfield?
Dan Haley, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association's CEO and president, didn't mince words in a statement responding to the ruling.
"COGA has always maintained that these bans and moratoriums on responsible oil and gas development are illegal, and we’re pleased that today the Supreme Court of Colorado has agreed with us," he said.
COGA's statement reiterated their contention that "bans and moratoriums on oil and gas are not a reasonable or responsible way to address local concerns." The industry group's position now has the weight of the court behind it, which changed the city of Broomfield's position on their own voter approved five-year moratorium – one that closely resembled the Fort Collins rules that were struck down. William Tuthill, the lead attorney for the city and county of Broomfield, said he views the city’s moratorium to be invalid.
Broomfield's nearby neighbor of Boulder has found itself in a similar position. Voters there passed the moratorium in November 2013. City Attorney Tom Carr said it would take another vote to formally remove the rule from the books, in the meantime, his recommendation "is probably going to be that we don't enforce it."
Boulder County itself expressed disappointment with the court rulings, saying the "decisions favored the interests of the oil and gas industry over the efforts of local communities to protect themselves from the impacts of fracking." The Boulder County Board of Commissioners imposed the moratorium on oil and gas development in unincorporated parts of the county, which is set to expire July 1, 2018. Officials are going over their options to see what might work in light of the court’s ruling. They say they still want to prevent oil and gas development in the county when possible.
Read More: Colorado's Battle Over Regulating Fracking Shifts To Ballot (via AP)
KUNC Editor Jim Hill contributed to this report
Inside Energy is a public media collaboration, based in Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota, focusing on the energy industry and its impacts.