After five years of imposing a de facto ban on oil and gas development, Boulder County commissioners are going to have to explain themselves in court.
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R) announced today she’s filing suit against the county commissioners for an “illegal moratorium” on energy development that was first imposed in February 2012.
Since then, Colorado courts have made it crystal clear that local governments cannot impose bans – or de facto bans – on energy development. But Boulder County commissioners have extended the moratorium again and again, claiming they need more time to craft local regulations that will operate alongside state permitting requirements. But almost nobody buys that argument, least of all the state attorney general. According to the statement released by her office today:
“Because five years is more than reasonable time to complete such a project, and because Boulder County continues to operate in clear violation of Colorado law, the Attorney General today is filing suit in Boulder County District Court to compel compliance.
It is not the job of industry to enforce Colorado law; that is the role of the Attorney General on behalf of the People of Colorado. Regrettably, Boulder County’s open defiance of State law has made legal action the final recourse available to the State.”
As we have seen elsewhere in Colorado, national “ban fracking” groups have played a pivotal role in the local politics surrounding Boulder County’s de facto ban. Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch, for example, has been a constant presence for years, aggressively lobbying county commissioners to ignore their own planning and legal experts. Those experts have advised against extending the moratorium because it’s against the law.
In response to Coffman’s legal action, Dan Haley, President and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, issued a matter-of-fact statement:
“It’s not about drilling, or fracking, or pipelines, it’s about the law. And the law is clear: Long-term moratoriums – and this one is over five years now – are illegal. Boulder County shouldn’t be surprised that the Attorney General cares about the rule of law in Colorado.”
The rule of law, however, means nothing to fringe environmental groups like Food & Water Watch. Nor do they care about how oil and natural gas is developed, or the stringency of regulations that govern the energy sector. They only want to ban oil and natural gas development everywhere and “keep it in the ground” at all costs.