Judge dismisses Colo. AG's suit against Boulder Co. oil and gas moratorium after it expires

Posted at 12:08 PM, May 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-08 14:08:26-04

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. – A Boulder District Court judge last week dismissed a lawsuit by the Colorado attorney general and two oil and gas organizations that sought to block the county’s moratorium on oil and gas development.

Judge Norma Sierra granted the motion to dismiss last Tuesday, though the motion was unopposed by the attorney general’s office and the two other plaintiff interveners in the suit: the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and American Petroleum Institute.

The dismissal came after attorneys for both sides agreed not to pursue the suit further because the moratorium, which bans the county from accepting and processing new attempts by companies to develop oil and gas properties in unincorporated part of the county, expired on May 1.

Each party to the suit has been directed to pay their own court costs and attorneys’ fees in the case.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffmanfiled the suit in February after the county failed to repeal its moratorium by the imposed deadline of Feb. 10.

Boulder County put the moratorium in place in 2012 and has extended it eight times, most recently in December, when county commissioners voted to extend it to May 1.

The now-dismissed suit pointed to a 2015 Colorado Supreme Court case that went against Fort Collins’ moratorium on fracking and a Longmont moratorium, and said that local governments cannot regulate the oil and gas industry.

The 2015 case’s ruling said that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act gives the state sole power to regulate oil and gas development and operations within the state.

In both rulings, the court said that even temporary moratoriums, which Boulder has argued its is, “deleteriously affects what is intended to be a state-wide program of regulation.”

Coffman on Monday praised the county’s decision to lift its moratorium.

“Boulder County took a positive step by finally lifting its unlawful moratorium, and I strongly believe that would not have happened without my office taking action to enforce state law,” she said. “While my office will be watching how Boulder’s new rules are implemented, we have agreed to the dismissal of our court case since there no longer is a moratorium in place.”

A Boulder County spokesman told the Daily Camera Monday that the county had so far not received any new development applications since the moratorium expired May 1.

The county has since implemented new rules regarding oil and gas development.

The suit’s dismissal comes amid a heightened focus on oil and gas development in populated areas of Colorado, as Gov. John Hickenlooper has ordered all oil and gas wells within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings to be inspected after a home in Firestone blew up because of leaking gases from an abandoned well.

Enjoy this content? Follow Denver7 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and download the Denver7 app on iOS and Android devices for continual access to breaking news, weather and sports.