For the third time in a month, a Colorado judge has thrown out a city’s ban on hydraulic fracking, ruling that it conflicts with state laws.
On Wednesday, Boulder District Court Judge D. D. Mallard ruled that voters in the city of Lafayette, who approved a ban on fracking, do not “have the authority to prohibit what the state authorizes and permits.”
Earlier, Mallard also invalidated a ban on fracking by the city of Longmont, whose city council immediately voted unanimously to appeal the decision, according to the Daily Camera.
And earlier in August, a Larimer County judge nullified Fort Collins’s five-year fracking ban.
All of the cases were brought by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, which argued that under state law, only it — and not local communities — has the authority to regulate the oil and gas industry.
“Today’s ruling was unequivocal, with Judge D.D. Mallard saying the operational conflict between the state’s robust framework of regulations and local bans is ‘obvious and patent on its face,’” said COGA president Tisha Schuller in a statement to the Daily Camera.
“I couldn’t agree more, and I hope her ruling ends the activist effort to pass illegal bans against energy development,” the statement continued. “The court clearly stated that ‘Lafayette does not have the authority, in a matter of mixed state and local concern, to negate the authority of the State.’”
Voters in several Colorado communities have banned fracking or placed moratoria on the practice, leading to lawsuits from the state. Congressman Jared Polis had bankrolled several measures for inclusion on the state ballot in November that would have given local communities the ability to impose stricter regulations on oil and gas operations than required by the state, but he dropped them at the urging of Gov. John Hickenlooper. Polis agreed to support a task force instead, with the intention of recommending legislation.
Wednesday’s court ruling “either confirms that the courts are not willing to look at these bans as an extension of people’s rights, or that they feel that the democratic rights of the people of Colorado have officially become secondary to the interests of the oil and gas industry,” Lafayette resident Cliff Willmeng, who campaigned for passage of the fracking ban, told the Daily Camera.
He added that a ballot-box solution is not off the table for the future, despite Polis having withdrawn his support for such measures during this election.
“[I]n the event that the courts cannot find their way to support people’s fundamental democratic rights,” he said, “it will become incumbent on the people of Colorado to alter or abolish the laws, so that those rights become primary.”
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