DENVER–An energy-industry group filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to overturn the Longmont vote to ban hydraulic fracturing within the city’s limits.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association lawsuit asks the Weld County District Court to invalidate the resolution stemming from the Nov. 6 vote, arguing that it constitutes “an illegal ban on oil and gas drilling.”
“There is clear legal precedent in Colorado that the ban is illegal and we expect it to be overturned by the courts,” said Tisha Schuller, COGA president and CEO, in a statement.
The lawsuit comes as the second legal challenge this year to anti-fracking policies in Longmont, which straddles Boulder and Weld counties. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency charged with regulating fracking, filed a lawsuit in July challenging the Longmont city council’s vote to prohibit hydraulic fracturing.
Sam Schabacker, western regional director of Food and Water Watch, said the lawsuit was expected, given the oil and gas industry’s vigorous opposition to Question 300 during the campaign. Voters in Longmont approved the measure, which prohibits hydraulic fracturing and the storage of fracking waste within city limits, with 60 percent of the vote.
“It’s astounding that the oil and gas industry would choose to undermine a democratic vote in order to protect a dangerous industrial activity,” said Schabacker. “It’s also discouraging that the governor would encourage them to undermine a vote of the people of Longmont.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper said earlier this month that the state would not sue to overturn the vote, but that he would support an industry effort to do so.
“The state will not sue Longmont over the fracking ban because there is uncertainty over whether the state has legal standing to sue in this instance,” Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown told the Longmont Times-Call. “But we do stand ready to support an energy company that does file a lawsuit in response to the ban.”
The COGA lawsuit argues that the Longmont ban denies the rights of property owners, in this case those holding the mineral rights, to develop their land. The ban also attempts to usurp the authority of state authorities, who have approved hydraulic fracturing, and preempt regulations established by the COGCC.
Schuller said the oil and gas industry understands the concerns of Longmont residents and stands prepared to work with them.
“We recognize and understand that the citizens of Longmont are concerned about the safety of their environment,” said Schuller. “We hope that the lawsuit can be quickly resolved so that we can work constructively with the city of Longmont to address those concerns in a way that does not illegally preclude the safe and responsible development of oil and gas reserves.”
The organization estimates that the mineral reserves beneath Longmont are worth $500 million.