Oil group sues Colorado cities over fracking bans

By Andrew Harris 
Bloomberg News

The Colorado Oil & Gas Association sued the cities of Fort Collins and Lafayette claiming their voter-enacted bans on the extraction of oil and natural gas are preempted by state laws regulating those resources.

The association seeks court orders permanently blocking the bans, according to copies of the complaints it provided. The filings couldn’t be immediately confirmed in Larimer and Boulder county court records.

Fort Collins voters on Nov. 5 chose to forbid all hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas for five years, according to the industry group’s complaint against the city, while Lafayette voters amended their city charter to bar oil and gas extraction.

“With 95 percent of all wells in Colorado hydraulically fractured, any ban on fracking is a ban on oil and gas development,” association President Tisha Schuller said in a statement announcing the filing.

The bans violate the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Act, which requires uniform regulation, according to the complaints. Colorado’s Supreme Court has held state law preempts local regulations when an issue comprises mixed state and local concerns, Schuller said in the statement.

No Surprise

“Its not a surprise that the Colorado Oil & Gas Association would take this position,” Laurie Kadrich, director of community development and neighborhood services for the city of Fort Collins, said in a phone interview today.

“As a city, we have a responsibility to defend the voter-approved ordinance, so we’ll be looking into the contents of the lawsuit and we’ll respond appropriately,” she said.

Debbie Wilmot, a spokeswoman for Lafayette, said in an e-mail yesterday that the city hadn’t yet received any notification of the lawsuit.

The Denver-based association was founded in 1984 to promote efficient and environmentally sound development and production of natural gas and oil in the state, according to its website.

In hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, water, sand and chemicals are shot underground to break apart rocks and free up trapped natural gas or oil. Use of the technique has led to a boom in production in states such as Pennsylvania, Texas, North Dakota and Colorado.

The cases are Colorado Oil & Gas Association v. City of Fort Collins, 2013CV031385, Larimer County, Colorado, District Court (Fort Collins); and Colorado Oil & Gas Association v. City of Lafayette, Colorado, 2013CV031746, Boulder County, Colorado, District Court (Boulder).

Also on FuelFix:

Balancing act needed to win with hydraulic fracturing