State sues over control of oil and gas regs, City of Longmont is charged with overstepping its authority

State sues over control of oil and gas regs, City of Longmont is charged with overstepping its authority by Peter Marcus, August 3, 2012, The Colorado Statesman
The case is believed to be the first time the state has initiated a lawsuit against local government regarding oil and gas regulation. The Longmont ordinance itself is not considered to be overly burdensome to the oil and gas industry, as environmental groups have even called it “weak.” A few controversial provisions address setbacks and residential zoning for wells associated with the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing. … The state believes that it — through the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — has the executive authority to impose rules with input from local representatives to the commission. As a result, the state is arguing that many of the rules enacted by Longmont contradict state law and therefore should be overturned. Of issue to the state concerning Longmont’s ordinance is:
• Additional water sampling/testing requirements;
• A ban on oil and gas well facilities and operations in residential zones;
• Imposing a well setback of at least 150 feet;
• Independent rules governing wildlife protection;
• An authority declared by Longmont to determine whether development should proceed on multi-well sites;
• An independent chemical disclosure rule, which the COGCC believes conflicts with state law; and
• An authority declared by Longmont to conduct its own inspections of oil and gas operations.

“The City Council has gone on record very publicly in stating that it’s doing what it thinks is best for its residents,” said Leal.

“No one can remember a time when the state has initiated a suit about local land use control in oil and gas rules,” said Jones. “Oil and gas companies typically do that and the state does get involved in some of those cases, but they don’t initiate it. It makes me very disappointed and frustrated that the state would use state money to initiate lawsuits to sue local governments.”

Much of the debate stems from concerns over the controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

In Erie, Colo. a coalition of parents and consumer and environmental organizations — called Erie Rising — have been protesting Encana Corporation’s plans to frack for natural gas near three schools, as well as the state’s “inadequate” rules and regulations.

“I think that Colorado has been sold down the river to the oil and gas industry by our politicians and even a lot of state environmental leaders,” said Caile. … “When people tell me we have to solve this issue at the state legislature, my reaction is, ‘Who in the state legislature is going to champion this issue for you?’” said Caile. “There’s nobody there.”

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