DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that individual cities cannot slow or ban fracking near residents because it’s a matter of state law.
In 2012, Longmont voters voted to ban fracking and in 2013, Fort Collins voters approved a five-year moratorium. The oil and gas industry sued both cities in 2013, and won rulings against Fort Collins and Longmont in summer 2014.
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The cities appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which asked the Colorado Supreme Court to rule. The Colorado Supreme Court heard arguments in December.
In its ruling Monday, the court said local cities’ attempts to stop fracking is “invalid and unenforceable.”
Fort Collins’ moratorium is “a matter of mixed state and local concern and, therefore, is subject to preemption by state law. Applying well-established preemption principles, the court further concludes that Fort Collins’s moratorium operationally conflicts with the effectuation of state law,” Justice Richard Gabriel wrote in the opinion.
Rod Bruske, who rallied in support of both Fort Collins’ moratorium and Longmont’s ban, called the ruling a devastating blow.
“It’s a real sad situation for everybody and especially for our children,” he said noting concerns over the impact to the environment and public health. “The local government had a will of the people, a majority of the citizens voted. We should be able to have that voice as a democracy.”
Environmental group, Conservation Colorado, agrees that decisions regarding oil and gas drilling and fracking should be made with community input. But now they feel residents don’t have a voice.
“This says to residents – you don’t have recourse and that’s a lousy message to be sending,” Pete Maysmith, the Executive Director of ConservationColorado, said. “None of us would like to live in a neighborhood with an oil and gas rig a couple hundred feet away.
On the other side of the debate sits Dan Haley, the CEO of the Colorado Oil and Has Association, who views this as a victory for private property rights.
“There are tens of thousands of mineral right holders in Colorado who have a constitutionally protected right to access those minerals,” Haley said.
Haley said the oil and gas industry has already accommodated new rules and regulations to reduce the impact of hydraulic fracturing on surrounding areas.
“Colorado has the most stringent laws on oil and gas in the country,” he said.
He added that the bans would have cost the state local jobs and tax revenue.
“This is a $31 billion industry in Colorado we employ directly or indirectly more than 100,000 people in Colorado,” Haley said.
Colorado has more than 50,000 active oil and gas wells.