Local government officials from around Colorado took a swipe at Gov. John Hickenlooper for suing the city of Longmont, CO, to turn back its ordinance establishing natural gas and oil drilling regulations within its boundaries. The state maintains exclusive jurisdiction in this area under the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

“Local governments have both the right and responsibility to take action to protect the public health and well-being of our citizens as well as the environment,” according to the letter, which was signed by officials from 10 counties and six cities, including Aspen and Boulder City.

A spokesperson paraphrased what Hickenlooper told an audience Wednesday night as his response to the letter. “If each municipality designed their own rules, the ability for industry to navigate those rules would be prohibitive and almost impossible,” the spokesperson said of the governor’s thoughts. “If we don’t have consistent regulations with sufficient flexibility for the needs of our local communities…we’re going to have chaos.”

In August, Hickenlooper said the state hoped to avoid a lengthy court battle with Longmont officials over their newly enacted gas/oil drilling regulations that challenge the state’s authority to regulate energy operations (see Shale Daily, Aug. 17).

Longmont’s city council on July 17 approved a ban on drilling operations in residential areas. It included a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking), groundwater monitoring rules and stream setback regulations. Wildlife protections also are included.

The local officials in their letter asked Hickenlooper to withdraw the lawsuit.

Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier told local news media that governments all over the state were “surprised and disappointed” by Hickenlooper’s decision to have the state press the lawsuit through the COGCC.

Local jurisdictions in Colorado claim that counties, cities and towns regularly use their land-use regulatory authorities to govern industrial and development activity, including oil/gas development. They see the lawsuit as a state power play.

Colorado has home rule jurisdictions for its cities and counties.

In their letter, the officials urge Hickenlooper to work with them to craft and support “regulatory solutions that address local concerns and ensure comprehensive management of potentially damaging and risky industrial activities within our jurisdictions.”