Boulder County commissioners re-implemented a local moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Thursday, defying both state Supreme Court rulings and their own attorney’s legal advice.
The county repealed an old fracking ban, which was supposed to last until 2018, with a new six-month moratorium, which the oil industry considers challenging.
“Boulder County ends a moratorium by creating a brand new one,” Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association which brought the lawsuit which led to the Court’s ruling, told DailyCamera News. “We will watch very carefully to see if the county is sincere in enacting oil and gas regulations within the context of the recent Supreme Court ruling or if this is just a ploy to extend their previous moratorium and it’s business as usual.”
The moratorium likely defies a May 2 ruling of the state Supreme Court, which found that fracking bans and moratoriums passed by the Colorado cities of Longmont and Fort Collins were “preempted by state law and therefore, [are] invalid and unenforceable.” One of Boulder County’s own attorneys publicly stated that the moratorium was probably illegal, saying “it’s likely a court would find it hard to distinguish our moratorium from Fort Collins” if anyone filed a lawsuit challenging it. Fracking has been banned in the county since 2012.
The oil and gas industry in Colorado and other states has historically been regulated by the state, not local, government. The industry worried that local rulings could create a regulatory “patchwork,” which could hamper energy development in Colorado. Several environmental groups, including Food and Water Watch, The Sierra Club, Earthworks and a local group called Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development have supported local bans on fracking in Colorado.