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Colorado Oil & Gas Ass'n v. City of Longmont, Colorado

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20169
Nos. 13CV63, (Colo. Dist. Ct., 07/24/2014)

A Colorado court struck down a city's ban on hydraulic fracturing. In 2012, voters passed an amendment to the city charter that bans fracking and the storage and disposal of fracking waste within city limits. The oil and gas industry challenged the ban, arguing that it was preempted. The court agreed, rejecting the city's claims that the ban is a valid exercise of its home rule police and land use authority. Colorado's Oil and Gas Conservation Act, which permits hydraulic fracturing, grants the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission the authority to regulate oil and gas activity in the state, and there is no way to harmonize the city's ban with the stated goals of the Act due to an operational conflict. The Commission permits hydraulic fracturing and the city prohibits it. The Commission permits storage and disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste and the city prohibits it. In addition, according to the court, the city's ban on hydraulic fracturing does not prevent waste; instead, it causes waste: mineral deposits are being left in the ground by all the wells that are not being drilled due to the ban. Given the state interest in production, prevention of waste, and protection of correlative rights on the one hand, and the city's interest in banning hydraulic fracturing on the other, the court ruled that the operational conflict in this case is "obvious and patent on its face."