Frack Bans Challenged by Industry Lawsuits

December 4, 2013
Critics say the municipal bans violate a recent Supreme Court decision

Critics say the municipal bans violate a recent Supreme Court decision

DENVER—The Colorado Oil and Gas Association filed lawsuits Tuesday against two of the four cities—Fort Collins and Lafayette–where voters approved hydraulic-fracturing bans in the November election.

Meanwhile, the Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the gaffe-plagued recount in the vote on a Broomfield fracking ban. The final count found the anti-fracking ballot measure had passed by 20 votes after initially failing by 17 votes.

The moves came as no surprise, given that COGA filed a lawsuit a year ago against the city of Longmont after it passed a similar ban.

“It is regrettable and unfortunate that COGA had to take this action. There are over 100,000 families that rely on the oil and gas industry for their livelihoods and these bans effectively stop oil and gas development,” said COGA President and CEO Tisha Schuller.

She said that the municipal bans violate a recent Supreme Court decision saying that state law, which allows and regulates oil-and-gas development and fracking, supersedes local law.

“With 95 percent of all wells in Colorado hydraulically fractured, any ban on fracking is a ban on oil and gas development, and the state Supreme Court has clearly stated bans are illegal in Colorado,” Schuller said in a statement.

Voters in Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette approved anti-fracking measures pushed by national groups like Clean Water Action in the Nov. 5 balloting. The only city not facing a lawsuit, at least not yet, is Boulder, where no oil-and-gas drilling is taking place.

Foes of hydraulic fracturing quickly criticized the lawsuits. Democratic Rep. Jared Polis said in a Twitter message, “Colorado Oil & Gas Association sinks to new low and files suit against multiple Colorado communities.”

“The people of Colorado now know that this industry will do everything within its power to undermine democracy, diminish home values,” Gary Wockner, head of Clean Water Action, told the Denver Post. “It’s now the local cities’ job to vigorously protect the public and defend the will of the voters.”

Schuller said COGA had no choice but to take action, saying, “If there was any other way to deal with the blatant illegality of these bans, our members would certainly pursue it.”

“That COGA has had to take this action further demonstrates the huge disservice self-described ‘fractivists’ have done to our communities in promoting energy bans.  Instead of working constructively with industry and city leaders, extremists have used fear and misinformation to lure cities into passing bans which they know are illegal and will cost  staff time and taxpayer money,” said Schuller.

Shortly after the bans passed, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a proposal to monitor and regulate methane emissions from drilling written in cooperation with the Environmental Defense Fund and industry officials from Anadarko, Encana and Noble Energy.

The plan would make Colorado the first state in the nation to devise regulations for methane emissions. Even so, anti-fracking activists say they plan to push for a 2014 ballot measure that would ask voters to ban hydraulic fracturing statewide.

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