Colorado’s High Court Deals Blow to Towns’ Efforts to Freeze Fracking
Beneath Colorado’s Front Range–a stretch of the Rocky Mountains in the center of the state–billions of cubic feet of natural gas have been bubbling for millions of years. Above ground, the state’s supreme court ruled on Monday to overturn measures put in place by Fort Collins and Longmont–two towns that sit atop the reserves–to prevent fracking within the limits of their municipalities.
A lawsuit brought by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association to a lower court ended up invalidating both cities’ anti-fracking measures, and following an appeal by Fort Collins and Longmont, the case moved to the state’s high court.
The court overturned Fort Collins’s five-year freeze of fracking within its city limits, issuing the following statement:
“The supreme court concludes that Fort Collins’s five-year moratorium on fracking and the storage of fracking waste within the city is a matter of mixed state and local concern and, therefore, is subject to preemption by state law.”
Similarly, the fracking ban established by Longmont in 2012 was deemed “invalid and unenforceable.”
“Applying well-established preemption principles, the supreme court concludes that the City of Longmont’s ban on fracking and the storage and disposal of fracking wastes within its city limits operationally conflicts with applicable state law,” Justice Richard Gabriel wrote.
Colorado state law does not prohibit fracking, though the practice is regulated, and is among the most transparent in the country. State law also maintains the state’s authority in instances where a local government moves to push litigation involving the oil and gas industries.
Unsurprisingly, energy industry advocates were encouraged by the court’s ruling while conservationists were incensed.
“Oil and gas is ready to stand up for Colorado consumers and for Colorado’s place in the American energy renaissance,” Colorado Petroleum Council director Tracee Bentley told the Denver Post.
Conservation Colorado director Pete Maysmith expressed disappointment, advocating for “ground up” policymaking.
“Local governments should have the ability to call a timeout on drilling in order to better understand its impacts and ensure safety and public health,” he said.
While Monday’s ruling prohibits Fort Collins and Longmont from halting the practice of fracking, other Front Range towns voted for and still maintain regulatory measures (but not full force bans) for fracking on their land, namely Boulder and Lafayette.