On Monday, November 24, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) filed a lawsuit in the Broomfield District Court for declaratory judgment to invalidate that city’s temporary ban on hydraulic fracturing. The ban, known as Question 300, passed in November 2013 by 20 votes, places a five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and prohibits storage in open pits and disposal of waste from hydraulic fracturing in Broomfield. Question 300 was put on the ballot by a grassroots group called Our Broomfield, which acted in response to oil and gas company Sovereign’s plans to begin hydraulic fracturing in the North Park area near Prospect Ridge Academy.
Similar drilling bans in Fort Collins, Lafayette and Longmont have already been struck down this year because they violated state law. “Colorado has among the most stringent and well-constructed oil and gas regulations in the nation, and we have a court system that respects the rule of law and rights granted through contractual agreements,” stated COGA President Tisha Schuller in a news release Monday. “For the last three years, COGA has worked diligently to create operating agreements with local jurisdictions that respect the law and meet the needs of local communities. It is my sincere hope that we can get the lawsuits resolved so we can focus on the important and successful work of engaging with our communities.”
In its complaint, COGA asked the court to determine that the ban is “invalid and unenforceable” because it is preempted by state and federal laws. COGA’s position is somewhat strengthened by the fact that the hydraulic fracturing ban does not apply to oil and gas company Sovereign, which won its legal action over the moratorium earlier this year. Sovereign planned to drill new wells in Broomfield in 2013, but was unable to because of the passage of the five-year moratorium. Sovereign then sued, claiming it should be exempt from the moratorium because of a memorandum of understanding it had in place before Question 300 was approved. Judge Chris Melonakis ruled in Sovereign’s favor in September. The city decided not to appeal the decision.
Our Broomfield was disappointed in the decision to allow Sovereign to pursue hydraulic fracturing and in the city’s decision not to appeal the decision. According to Nate Troup, a member of Our Broomfield, the group plans to continue to “pursue protection of our communities and our property values in every way we can.”
Sovereign is permitted to drill in Broomfield per the strict standards set forth in the memorandum of understanding, though it is unknown when or where Sovereign will begin drilling. The moratorium still applies to all other oil and gas operators, even if they have previously drilled in the city and county.