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Court Hearing Held on COGA Challenges to City Ban on Oil/Gas Drilling

A state district court in Boulder, CO, recently completed a hearing on the oil and natural gas industry’s legal challenges to the Longmont city ban on drilling, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking), within the city. A judge is being asked to invalidate the city ban (see Shale Daily, July 17, 2013).

No action was taken at the July 9 hearing; the judge took the arguments of both sides under advisement. There was no indication of the timing for the eventual ruling, according to officials at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), which has asked for the city ban to be overturned. Challenges by COGA to fracking bans and related activities are also pending in several other cities around the state.

Three plaintiff’s motions for summary judgment against Longmont’s bans on the use, storage and disposal of fracking fluids were reviewed in Boulder District Court. COGA officials said their motion is part of a broader strategy challenging the legality of local energy bans and moratoria throughout the state in which a half-dozen local drilling restrictions have been adopted (see Shale Daily, Dec. 4, 2013).

They reiterated their request that 20th District Judge D.D. Mallard invalidate the Longmont bans on the basis that they are clearly preempted by the state's authority to uniformly regulate the technical aspects of oil and gas drilling and production, which includes hydraulic fracturing of a well, and the storage and disposal of fracturing fluids, and "impermissibly prohibits a process that is expressly authorized and permitted by the state."

“COGA members, and many in Colorado communities, support our efforts to maintain the rule of law when it comes to oil and gas regulation,” said COGA CEO Tisha Schuller. “The Longmont bans, and those passed in other communities, clearly violate established state law and legal precedents, depriving communities and all of Colorado of the benefits associated with responsible energy development.”

In an earlier decision this year, the judge denied the petition of East Boulder County United (EBCU)/Cliff Willmeng to intervene in a challenge by COGA to the ban on various energy-related activities in Lafayette, CO. Both COGA and the city of Lafayette opposed the attempt to intervene by EBCU. In her decision, Judge Mallard cited that the intended purpose of EBCU’s effort to intervene was to “expand the scope” of the Lafayette litigation and on those grounds denied the ECBU motion.

As a result of the ECBU’s inability to intervene, Wilmeng has filed a class action lawsuit against Gov. John Hickenlooper, the State of Colorado and COGA, claiming that his rights are being violated by those parties for attempting to overturn the energy ban.

In an earlier decision, District Judge Gregory Lammons denied a similar effort by Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, the Sierra Club and Earthworks to intervene in COGA’s action to dismiss the Fort Collins five-year ban on hydraulic fracturing.

“The oil and gas industry will continue to work closely with local citizens and their community leaders to ensure their concerns are heard and addressed, Schuller said. "Clearly, Colorado’s courts are recognizing these flawed and self-indulgent actions by these activists.”

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