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Judge re-opens Longmont fracking ban case after activists asked to lift injunction

Posted: 5:59 PM, Aug 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-23 20:01:23-04
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BOULDER, Colo. – A Boulder County judge on Friday granted a motion to re-open a case over the fracking ban in Longmont, leading to the possibility that an injunction on the ban could be lifted and setting up perhaps a precedent-setting court fight.

The activist groups Colorado Rising and Our Longmont filed the motion earlier this month, asking District Court Judge Nancy Woodruff Salomone to lift the injunction stopping Longmont from enforcing the ban after the passage of SB19-181 this spring, which gave local municipalities more control over oil and gas development.

Salomone ordered the case to be re-opened but did not weigh in on the activists' requests to lift the injunction, according to court records. The Longmont fracking ban was approved by voters in 2012 but overturned in 2014 and 2016 court decisions.

“We are excited that the District Court ordered this case be reopened," Colorado Rising attorney Joe Salazar said in a statement Friday evening. "This is an important first step in the long fight to protect Longmont residents and the environment from the harm associated with fracking activities. We stand with Longmont residents to reinstate their voter-approved fracking ban.”

The oil and gas industry and state regulators pushed back against the activists' motion, saying SB19-181 never intended to outright ban oil and gas development.

Salazar, who is a former state lawmaker, said earlier this month that SB19-181 should allow for the reopening of the case and reinstatement of the fracking ban because it allows local governments to have control over oil and gas development within their jurisdictions. He says the law does not explicitly say that cities or counties could not outright ban fracking in order to protect people’s health, welfare and the environment.

Longmont voters approved the ban in 2012 with about 60% of voters supporting the measure. Our Longmont, a group of residents opposed to fracking, was the main driver behind the ballot measure that outlawed fracking within city limits.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Top Operating Company and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) sued to block the ban from going into effect, and the Boulder District Court agreed in 2014, saying that the ban was not in accordance with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act or the COGCC’s rules.

The court wrote at the time that it should be up to the legislature or another court to make the decision.