Colorado Drills Boulder County for Its Oil Moratorium

DENVER (CN) — Colorado has sued Boulder County, saying the state’s last local government with a moratorium on oil and gas drilling must conform to the Colorado Supreme Court ruling banning such local powers.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman sued the county and its Board of Commissioners on Valentine’s Day in Boulder County Court to stop them from enforcing the five-year-old moratorium on oil and gas development.

Boulder County’s temporary ban closely resembles the city of Longmont’s fracking ban, and Fort Collins’ five-year oil and gas moratorium, both of which violated state law, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in 2016.

“In Longmont and Fort Collins, the court held that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act expresses and embodies the state’s interest in both the statewide development of oil and gas resources and the ‘uniform regulation’ of oil and gas activities,’” the attorney general says in the complaint.

The Colorado Supreme Court held that even temporary moratoriums impeded state-sanctioned oil development.

Boulder’s moratorium has been in place since 2012, and has been extended or reinstated eight times. The attorney general accuses the County Commission of justifying the moratorium as a “purported need to update county oil and gas regulations,” even though the board has not updated its regulations in the five-year period of the moratorium.

“It has instead repeatedly extended the moratorium and delayed its rulemaking,” the complaint states.

“The moratorium is not merely a regulation, but a prohibition on oil and gas development activities.”

The Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, but issued a statement on Tuesday calling Boulder County’s moratorium an “open defiance of state law.”

“The Boulder County Commissioners responded that they needed yet more time to draft regulations and prepare to accept new applications for oil or gas development,” Coffman said in the statement.

However, “Because five years is more than reasonable time to complete such a project, and because Boulder County continues to operate in clear violation of Colorado law, the attorney general today is filing suit in Boulder County District Court to compel compliance.

“It is not the job of industry to enforce Colorado law; that is the role of the attorney general on behalf of the People of Colorado. Regrettably, Boulder County’s open defiance of state law has made legal action the final recourse available to the state.”

County commissioners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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