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Congressman Urges COGA to Withdraw Legal Challenge to CO Fracking Bans

A Colorado congressman Thursday called on the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) to immediately withdraw its lawsuits challenging bans on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the cities of Fort Collins and Lafayette.

COGA "needs to focus on winning over hearts and minds, not suing us when they disagree with the legitimate outcome of elections," said  Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). "I call on [COGA] to withdraw their lawsuits and stop trying to overturn the recent elections in Lafayette and Fort Collins."

The lawsuits, which focus on the fracking activities in the two Colorado cities, were filed Tuesday (see Shale Daily,Dec. 4). The cities of Broomfield, CO, and Boulder also passed initiatives in November imposing bans on fracking, but they were not included in the lawsuits (see Shale Daily,Nov. 14;Nov. 6).

The majority of Fort Collins, Boulder, Lafayette and Broomfield voters chose to pass measures to extend drilling moratoriums or fracking bans. And even those who voted against these measures generally agree it is community members, not COGA, who should determine how and whether oil and gas is developed in Fort Collins and Lafayette, Polis said.

"Local governments have authority to regulate oil and gas land use activities because oil and gas operations are matters of local concerns that impact home values and are an important issue for residents and neighborhoods," he said.

However COGA, in its lawsuits, argued that the bans are illegal since state regulations specify and the state Supreme Court has ruled that oil and gas development, which must employ fracking, supersedes local laws and cannot be banned.

A conflict exists between Fort Collins' ban on all fracking within city limits and state law since the city has no constitutional or statutory authority to implement regulations on oil and gas development techniques, such as fracking, COGA said. The Colorado Supreme Court has held that state law preempts the local regulations when an issues constitutes a mixed state and local concern, the group said.

Lafayette's ban "directly violates the Colorado Supreme Court's holding that a local municipality cannot implement an outright ban on oil and gas development," COGA said.

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