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Colorado Producers Attempting to Topple Fracking Bans

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) on Tuesday filed lawsuits against two of four cities that last month passed initiatives banning drilling, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking), in their local jurisdictions (see Shale Daily, Nov. 18).

COGA’s legal action focuses on the bans in Fort Collins and Lafayette, alleging that they are illegal "since state regulations specify and the state Supreme Court has ruled" oil and gas development supersedes local laws and cannot be banned, including fracking. The Fort Collins lawsuit was filed in state court in Larimer County, and the Lafayette action was filed in Boulder County.

Voters in Fort Collins and Lafayette, along with Broomfield and Boulder, in early November passed the drilling/fracking initiatives (see Shale Daily, Nov. 14; Nov. 6).

“It is regrettable and unfortunate that [we] had to take this action," said COGA CEO Tisha Schuller. “With 95% 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.”

The latest legal action "further demonstrates the huge disservice self-described ‘fractivists’ have done to our communities in promoting energy bans."

While the anti-fracking activists raise concerns about local water supplies and the environment, operators contend that they are continuing to work constructively with stakeholders. Industry has said some of those opposed to drilling are using "fear and misinformation" to enact bans they know are "illegal and will cost staff time and taxpayer money,” according to Schuller. “If there was any other way to deal with the blatant illegality of these bans, our members would certainly pursue it.”

COGA stressed that "every aspect of drilling, including hydraulic fracturing, is tightly regulated in Colorado." Producers point to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) as the lead agency for oil and gas oversight, with additional regulatory oversight by other state and federal agencies. "The COGCC rules are recognized nationally as the most comprehensive in the country," Schuller said.

Fort Collins voters approved a five-year ban on all fracking within city limits. Lafayette amended its home-rule charter to ban all development, even though the city council opposed it. The Lafayette ban  also is unlimited in time and scope.

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