Colorado Supreme Court Upholds District Court Orders Invalidating Local Fracking BansPublications - Client Alert | May 2, 2016
Today the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the district court rulings in two cases (City of Longmont v. Colo. Oil and Gas Ass’n, 2016 Co 29; and City of Fort Collins v. Colo. Oil and Gas Ass’n, 2016 CO 28) involving local ordinances banning hydraulic fracturing and underground disposal and storage. In the fall of 2012 the voters in Longmont, Colorado voted to amend their home-rule charter to include language which would prohibit hydraulic fracturing and the storage or disposal of wastes created by hydraulic fracturing within city limits. Likewise, in 2013, the voters in Fort Collins, Colorado voted in favor of a citizen-initiated ordinance which banned hydraulic fracturing and underground waste disposal within the City of Fort Collins for a five-year period. Soon after the bans were passed by the local voters, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry organization, sued both localities arguing that Colorado’s Oil and Gas Act preempted local rules regarding oil and gas exploration and development in the state.
The district courts in both cases ruled that the Colorado Oil and Gas Act preempted any local bans and that, as a result, the local ordinances were invalid and unenforceable. Both the City of Longmont and the City of Fort Collins appealed the district court rulings to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which requested the cases be transferred to the Colorado Supreme Court. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, under the Colorado Oil and Gas Act, had crafted a comprehensive set of rules and regulations governing oil and gas exploration and development, including hydraulic fracturing and waste disposal. As a result, in matters of statewide concern, such as the uniform statewide regulation of hydraulic fracturing, the rules and regulations promulgated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission supersede local ordinances and regulations. According, the local moratoriums were ruled invalid and unenforceable.