Efforts to limit hydraulic fracturing on a local level suffered a major setback Monday in Colorado as the state’s Supreme Court ruled that state law preempts local bans and moratoriums.
Colorado’s justices “had to consider the narrow legal question of whether Longmont’s ban interfered in a significant way with state law,” the Times Call reports. “The unequivocal answer is yes, [Justice Richard] Gabriel wrote.”
The Hill has more details:
The state’s Supreme Court cited the main state law regulating oil and natural gas drilling and found that lawmakers clearly intended to severely limit the ability of cities and towns to regulate or outlaw the controversial practice also known as fracking.
… “The Oil and Gas Conservation Act and the [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation] Commission’s pervasive rules and regulations … convince us that the state’s interest in the efficient and responsible development of oil and gas resources includes a strong interest in the uniform regulation of fracking,” the court wrote in striking down Longmont, Colo.’s ban on fracking.
Colorado, a purple state, has been dubbed “ground zero” in the battle against fracking—and it’s been a big-money endeavor.
Green Democrat Jared Polis, a congressman from Boulder, devoted millions of dollars to anti-fracking ballot initiatives in recent years. And though the efforts have been branded as a grassroots political movement, some have traced outside support from California’s hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer, as well as major national environmental groups.
The investment appeared to pay off for environmentalists, at least at first: In recent years, Weld County, Loveland, Longmont, Fort Collins, Lafayette and Broomfield have all grappled with similar proposals, as well as a handful of legal challenges to local fracking rules. Green activists traced these developments avidly, hoping to replicate their successes in Colorado elsewhere in the United States.
This weeks' ruling constitutes a big obstacle for fracking opponents—but the fight is not quite over yet in Colorado. As the Times Call notes, environmentalists are pushing for ballot initiatives in November that would amend the state constitution, creating an opening for future bans or moratoriums.