A Colorado state judge recently struck down a city’s voter-approved moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” This marks the second time a Colorado judge has quashed a city’s fracking ban within a matter of two weeks.
As we previously reported, three Colorado cities approved bans on fracking in late 2013. In Fort Collins and Boulder, the voters passed a five-year moratorium on in-town drilling, while in Lafayette the voters amended the city charter to ban the practice completely. At the time, the governor of Colorado, along with the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA), threatened a lawsuit claiming the bans violated state law.
In his nine-page opinion, Larimer County District Court Judge Gregory Lammons granted the COGA’s motion for summary judgment and agreed that the city may not ban drilling entirely—a practice that Colorado regulates extensively within the state. Specifically, he held that Fort Collins’ ban on fracking is “preempted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act for two reasons: the five-year ban substantially impedes a significant state interest and the ban prohibits what state law allows.”
This decision comes just two weeks after a Boulder County District Judge, D.D. Mallard, ruled that Longmont, Colorado’s ban on fracking clearly conflicted with the state’s regulations. Although Judge Mallard noted that the city may regulate aspects of oil and gas production related to the health and safety of its citizens, he ultimately held that Longmont’s regulation caused an untenable “operational conflict,” and that the state rules take precedence.