Colorado County’s Oil and Gas Moratorium Expires

DENVER (CN) — A state judge this week dismissed Colorado’s lawsuit against the Boulder County Board of Commissioners’ five-year oil and gas moratorium, because the moratorium expired on May 1.

Boulder County Judge Norma Sierra dismissed the case without prejudice Monday, a day after Boulder County filed its own motion to dismiss. The county called the case moot.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman agreed, calling the end of the moratorium a “positive step.”

“I strongly believe that would not have happened without my office taking action to enforce state law,” Coffman said.

Coffman sued the county in February, and was soon joined by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute. They claimed the moratorium was illegally impeding state oil and gas interests.

In a March memorandum to the court, Coffman cited the nullification last year of Fort Collins’ oil and gas development moratorium and Longmont’s fracking ban, because under the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act, state powers trump local governments in regulating oil and gas development.

“Boulder cites no case suggesting that local governments can insulate their actions from preemption,” the March memorandum states. “There is no such authority. Rather, the preemption analysis is objective: If a local law materially impedes or destroys a state interest, then the ordinance is preempted.”

The three Boulder County Commissioners wrote an opinion piece for the Daily Camera’s May 6 edition, explaining the county’s “difficult and frustrating position.”

“Many county residents have turned to us and made logical and compelling arguments for enacting a ban or a moratorium extension in Boulder County,” Commissioners Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner and Elise Jones wrote.However, the courts have made it abundantly clear that we cannot do that, and even if we did, the courts would quickly nullify it.”

The commissioners listed 16 new regulations the county would undertake, including a “new Clean Energy Credit Union,” and organization of a Colorado Communities for Climate Action coalition.

They also addressed the Firestone home explosion that killed two people on April 17. Investigators have determined the fire was caused by an abandoned flow line from a gas well.

“We have requested maps and data about the location of all active and inactive wells in our county, and will ensure appropriate safety inspections will be done on capped and abandoned wells and lines,” the commissioners wrote.

The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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