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Cynthia Coffman, the Attorney General of Colorado, has filed a lawsuit against Boulder County, following weeks of threats over the county’s refusal to remove a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in unincorporated areas.
Boulder’s ban stipulates that the local authorities will not accept and process any new oil and gas exploration permit applications.
The moratorium was first introduced back in 2012 and since then has been extended eight times, the Denver Channel recalls. The latest extension is until May this year.
According to the Attorney General, however, Boulder is overstepping its authority, and no county has the power to ban oil and gas exploration. In the suit, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman referred to two cases from 2015, in both of which the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that counties cannot act as regulators of the oil industry.
The court struck down the moratoriums on fracking approved by voters in Fort Collins and Longmont at the same time, prompting anti-fracking activists to plan future moves aimed at amending Colorado’s constitution in a way that would clip the wings of the local oil and gas industry or give local governments the powers to do so themselves.
The Boulder County Commissioners reacted to the news with a statement saying the moratorium was “consistent with Colorado law,” accusing the state’s Attorney General of acting in favor of the oil and gas industry.
“It’s a sweetheart deal for the oil and gas industry, but a massive waste of Coloradans’ tax dollars for the state to sue us on industry’s behalf, and we are prepared to defend our right to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of our constituents,” the statement read.
According to the Colorado Supreme Court, in its ruling on the Fort Collins and Longmont cases, such bans do actually clash with state legislation. As the court wrote in its opinion in the Longmont case, “the City of Longmont’s ban on fracking and the storage and disposal of frackingwastes within its city limits operationally conflicts with applicable state law.”
Chances are that the Boulder County ban will meet the same fate at the hands of the court.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.