Judge rules Longmont can't ban fracking because it conflicts with the state's authority

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. - A Boulder district court judge ruled Thursday that Longmont voters can’t ban hydraulic fracturing because it conflicts with the state's authority.

District Judge D.D. Mallard decided that, "Article XVI of the Longmont Municipal Charter, which bans hydraulic fracturing and the storage and disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste in the City of Longmont, is invalid as preempted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act."

Mallard said in reviewing the case, "There is no way to harmonized Longmont’s fracking ban with the stated goals of the Oil and Gas Conservation Act."

"The state interest in production, prevention of waste and protection of correlative rights, on the one hand, and Longmont’s interest in banning hydraulic fracturing on the other, present mutually exclusive positions. There is no common ground upon which to craft a means to harmonize the state and local interest. The conflict in this case is an irreconcilable conflict," Mallard wrote.

However, Mallard issued a stay in the case in case the City of Longmont wants to appeal the ruling to a higher court.

That means, for now, fracking is still banned in Longmont.

Voters in Longmont passed the ban in November 2012. The ban was written as an amendment to the city charter. Longmont maintains the amendment is a valid exercise of its home rule police and land use authority.

Since then, voters in other cities including Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins have also banned fracking. Mallard's ruling only covers Longmont.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a gas drilling process that blasts chemical-laden water deep into the ground. Supporters say the process is safe, while opponents say the technique pollutes groundwater.

After the ruling, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers issued the following statement:

“The law regarding preemption of local oil and gas regulation by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act is clear and the court got it right. Under the current law, local governments can’t ban fracking.” 

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