Colorado High Court Rules Local Bans on Fracking Are Illegal

  • Date: 03/05/16
  • Dan Frosch, The Wall Street Journal

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that municipalities can’t bar hydraulic fracturing, a long awaited decision in a legal battle that has rippled across this energy rich state.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that local bans on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. are illegal after a long fight over drilling technique in northeastern Colorado.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that local bans on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. are illegal after a long fight over drilling technique in northeastern Colorado. Photo: Bloomberg News

In a pair of rulings, Colorado’s high court found that measures passed by the cities of Fort Collins and Longmont that sought to halt the controversial drilling technique known as fracking “were preempted by state law and, therefore… invalid and unenforceable.”

The decisions uphold lower court rulings and come amid a long-running battle over fracking across northeastern Colorado, which sits atop a large shale formation. In recent years, cities along the state’s fast growing Front Range have sought to limit the practice amid concerns that drilling is taking place too close to population centers and complaints from environmental groups.

The legal dispute dates back to 2012, when voters in Longmont approved a ban on fracking. A year later, Fort Collins voters passed a five-year moratorium on the practice.

But two district court judges subsequently ruled that the bans were illegal under state law, after the Colorado Oil & Gas Association filed a pair of lawsuits seeking to overturn them. The Supreme Court took up the case after both cities appealed.

In a statement, Fort Collins said that while it was still reviewing the ruling, “it is clear that the Supreme Court has found that the Fort Collins moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is in operational conflict with Colorado law.”

Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs said, “The case did not end as the city hoped, but we respect the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Energy industry groups, meanwhile, lauded the decisions.

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