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Colo. Supreme Court strikes down municipal fracking bans


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Colo. Supreme Court strikes down municipal fracking bans

In asignificant win for the oil and gas industry, the Colorado Supreme Court hasthrown out ordinances against hydraulic fracturing passed by the cities ofLongmont and Fort Collins.

Inits decision, announced May 2, the court cited Longmont's ban in particular,saying the city's "fracking ban is preempted by state law and, therefore,is invalid and unenforceable."

Thecourt went on to say that the inalienable-rights provision of the ColoradoConstitution does not save the fracking ban from pre-emption by state law."Applying well-established preemption principles, we conclude that anoperational conflict exists between Longmont's fracking bans and applicablestate law," the court said in its opinion.

TheSupreme Court cited prior case law, including its overturning of the Greeley'sban on oil and gas drilling in 1992, as part of the "well-establishedpreemption principles."

"[TheGreeley ban] was invalid because such a ban substantially impeded the state'sinterest in fostering the efficient development and production of oil and gasresources," the court said.

Votersin Longmont passed an outright ban on fracking in 2012, while Fort Collinsvoters approved a five-year moratorium in 2013.

TheColorado Oil & Gas Association, which filed suit against the Longmont ban,said it was pleased with the Supreme Court's decision.

"COGAhas always maintained that these bans on responsible oil and gas developmentare illegal, and we're pleased that today the Colorado Supreme Court has agreedwith us. This is not just a win for the energy industry but for the people ofColorado who rely on affordable and dependable energy and a strong economy,"President and CEO Dan Haley said. "It sends a strong message to anyonetrying to drive this vital industry out of the state that those efforts willnot be tolerated at any level."

Claimingthe Supreme Court had denied Colorado residents their "right of enjoyingand defending their lives and liberties," several environmental groupsdecried the decision in a joint statement.

"Itis beyond comprehension that the Colorado Supreme Court still fails torecognize the rights of people to live in a safe and healthy environment,"Kaye Fissinger, president of Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, said in thestatement. "The state has declared that fostering oil and gas developmentis in its interest. That the court apparently equates a government interestsuperior to human rights is a severe slap in the face. Our country's founding fathersare most certainly turning over in their graves."

LaurenPetrie, the Rocky Mountain region director with Food & Water Watch, saidthe court's decision negated a choice by voters directly affected by fracking.

"Today'sdecision deals a devastating blow not just to Longmont residents, but to allColoradans who have been stripped of a democratic process that should allow usthe right to protect our health, safety and property from the impacts of thisdangerous industrial activity," she said.

EarthworksEnergy Program Director Bruce Baizel called the court's decision "straightout of Orwell's Animal Farm," as the oil and gas industry has been deemed "moreequal" than others.

"Turningdemocracy on its head, today's ruling prohibits local communities from decidingwhether and how to balance their health against the fracking industry'sprofits," he said.