Colorado’s highest court overturned two cities’ bans on hydraulic fracturing Monday, ruling that state law preempts them.
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.
It’s a major loss for environmentalists, who have tried in recent years to get local fracking bans passed in places where state leaders are friendly to the oil and gas industry.
“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.
It had a similar finding for a five-year moratorium in Fort Collins, saying the measure “materially impedes the effectuation of the state’s interest in the efficient and responsible development of oil and gas resources.”
The decision could have effects beyond those two cities and in other localities in Colorado that have sought to regulate fracking without outright banning it.
The oil industry applauded the decision.
“Today’s decision protects private property rights, which are a main driver for the energy renaissance in this country,” said Tracee Bentley, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council.
“Effective regulation results when regulators and all stakeholders can work together to ensure safe development. We have that in Colorado.”
Environmentalists saw it as a blow to local governance and attempts to protect people and the environment from what they argue are harmful effects of fracking.
“Today’s decision deals a devastating blow not just to Longmont residents, but to all Coloradans who have been stripped of a democratic process that should allow us the right to protect our health, safety and property from the impacts of this dangerous industrial activity,” Lauren Petrie, Rocky Mountain region director of Food and Water Watch, said in a statement.