I originally got started with Our Broomfield in 2013 when they needed pictures and help with their website. My wife AnnMarie had already been involved with Our Broomfield, and she was expressing frustration over how much money people wanted to charge for photography and web design. At the time, Our Broomfield was just a handful of concerned parents and citizens, without a budget, trying to educate all of Broomfield as to what fracking was, and trying to prevent it from entering Broomfield. I volunteered to take photographs and donate them. I asked for locations of wells, and then went out for the day to take pictures. I came back with pictures, a headache, and a spotting nosebleed. I was furious. I asked how I could help. And that’s the beginning of what brought me here.
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 motionearlier 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.
Longmont voters approved the ban in 2012 with about 60% of voters supporting the measure.
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.
Longmont Residents Move to Lift Court Injunction on Oil & Gas Ban
Local control granted by SB 19-181 allows the 2012 voter-enacted law to stand
Join Colorado Rising and Longmont residents for a press conference on the matter today at 1 pm at the Colorado State Capitol in Room 0107.
LONGMONT, COLORADO — Today, Colorado Rising, on behalf of Our Longmont, filed a motion to reopen the City of Longmont v. Colo. Oil and Gas Ass’n case in Boulder District Court. This is a first step to lift an injunction by the Colorado Supreme Court prohibiting the implementation of Article XVI of Longmont’s Charter which bans fracking within the City of Longmont.
In 2012, Longmont voters overwhelmingly approved the charter amendment (Article XVI) to ban fracking within the city. At the time of the passage of Article XVI, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act (the “Act”) was much different than today.
The oil & gas industry wasted no time in bringing a lawsuit against the City of Longmont to challenge the will of voters. In May of 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court prevented the City of Longmont from enforcing its charter amendment. The Supreme Court held that the Amendment was in “operational conflict” with and preempted by state law. Thus, the Court prevented Longmont from enforcing Article XVI. Amendment XVI remains in Longmont’s charter.
This past spring, the Colorado General Assembly passed SB 19-181, which is considered a sea change in regulating oil and gas operations in the state. This sea change reinforced local government land use authority, provided local governments greater control over oil and gas operations, and eliminated preemption of state interest from the Act, among other things, making Longmont’s charter is no longer in operational conflict.
In light of the new law, Our Longmont will ask the Boulder County District Court to lift the injunction and allow the City of Longmont to enforce its voter-approved Charter amendment.
Michael Bellmont, Resident of Longmont and defendant said of the motion, “In truly bipartisan numbers, voters overwhelmingly approved a ban in 2012 that the Supreme Court later said was trumped by state law. The law has changed and now the charter amendment needs to be enforced to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our residents. We deserve public health and safety…we voted for it…and we deserve our voices to be heard and honored.”
Attorney Joe Salazar, Executive Director of Colorado Rising said, “SB 19-181 in no way stops local governments from enacting a ban on fracking. Considering the climate crisis and Longmont’s already failing air quality largely due to oil and gas extraction in Weld County, a ban is reasonable and necessary to protect the health and safety of Longmont residents. SB 19-181 granted local control to Colorado communities and Longmont has the right to exercise its self governance through implementation of their charter amendment.”
Dr. Detlev Helmig, Fellow and Associate Research Professor at the Institute of Alpine and Arctic Research (INSTAAR) at CU-Boulder said of the already failing air quality in Longmont, ”Our measurements have shown concentrations of oil and gas-related pollutants in East Longmont were at a minimum on average 2-3 times higher than in most other large US cities. Longmont’s oil and gas-related pollution exceeded the levels seen in all of the 28 major urban comparison areas. Based on the known wind patterns, these pollutants are presumably coming into Longmont from the active oil and gas drilling and fracking in Weld County.”
Please contact Anne Lee Foster, Communications Director for Colorado Rising, to interview defendants in the suit.
Processing, approval of applications on hold until Dec. 4
Broomfield officials have enacted a six-month oil and gas moratorium aimed at giving the city time to update local ordinances to be more in line with the newly-passed state law that gives municipalities more control over such matters.
The moratorium, approved at the May 28 city council meeting, will halt until Dec. 4 the processing or approval of applications for use by special review or operator agreements to allow oil and gas operations in Broomfield.
Several residents came to speak in favor of the moratorium and Chris McGowne, who identified himself as the associate director of the Colorado Petroleum Council, came to speak against.
Residents in favor of the moratorium said they think it will give Broomfield time to dissect what can be done and revisit Issue 301 – a voter initiative that passed by a 57 % vote in 2017.
Essentially, the measure requires any vote about oil and gas development in Broomfield to consider the negative effects that the decision could have on residents. It requires the consideration of health and safety of Broomfield citizens to be the primary metric by which oil and gas decisions are made.
Some pointed out that rulemaking “hasn’t even begun” at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and that Broomfield needs time to work on their own regulations.
McGowne brought up the same concerns he shared at a May 14 meeting when this moratorium came up for a first reading. He said companies that are members of the council always have benefited from a positive, collaborative and engaging relationship with Broomfield and that members always have taken a “pragmatic and proactive” approach to working with Broomfield and hope to continue to do so in the future.
McGowne said he understands the city wants to codify the new regulations, but that this moratorium is not needed to take such an action. Instead, he sees the action as a way to delay oil and gas development for as “long a time frame as possible.”
Ward 1 Councilwoman Elizabeth Law-Evans directed one response to McGowne, saying Broomfield has no intention of banning or keeping industry work constantly halted by a moratorium. The goal is to update regulations per the new state law, she said, adding an apology if she gave him a different impression.
If Broomfield didn’t have any permits pending, Ward 2 Councilman Mike Shelton said he wouldn’t know how to feel about a moratorium.
“I want to believe that the oil and gas companies want to produce this product and respect everybody that’s around them,” he said. “I just haven’t seen it that way. I haven’t seen it be positive, I haven’t seen it be collaborative, and I haven’t seen them be proactive about it. We defiantly need a six-month moratorium if we’re going to have Crestone (Peak Resources) operate under new regulations and not the ones we had so long ago.”
Members of council brought up the idea of a moratorium at previous meetings as a way to give city officials time to react to the passage of Senate Bill 181, which changes the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and authorizes local governments to exercise additional regulatory authority over oil and gas operations without being preempted by state law. Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law on April 16.
Extraction Oil & Gas, Inc., in October 2017 signed an operator agreement with Broomfield to drill up to 84 new wells on six sites, which is not impacted by the new state law. Crews [split verb comment=”are “]currently are drilling on the Interchange B Pad south of the Northwest Parkway and between Interstate 25 and Huron Street.
Broomfield amended its oil and gas land use regulations in July and again in March, when the city increased setbacks of residential and “sensitive use developments” to oil and gas well sites.
The new law grants local governments more authority to regulate surface operations and nuisance impacts of oil and gas operations.
At an April 9 meeting, council members asked staff to review and begin drafting amendments to the Broomfield oil and gas ordinance to implement the broader authority granted by the law.
In late March, Adams County commissioners passed a moratorium, which can extend up to six months, for new applications for oil and gas drilling permits. Last month, Lafayette extended a moratorium that the council initially approved in November 2017.
The American Petroleum Institute issued a news release Tuesday evening, claiming Broomfield is the seventh Colorado community to enact a moratorium since SB 181 passed.
“We are disappointed that Broomfield City Council has chosen to impose a moratorium on new energy development. Its decision is misguided and harmful to our state,” Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Lynn Granger said about Broomfield’s vote. “Our industry prioritizes public health and safety and continues to take proactive measures to ensure that energy development is done safely and responsibly in collaboration with the priorities of Colorado communities. Nothing about Senate Bill 181 has changed our industry’s leadership role in environmental stewardship.”