Colorado’s attorney general filed suit today against independent-minded Boulder County over its refusal to end its moratorium on new oil and gas development. Of course, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. A brouhaha has been brewing for quite some time.
Just a few days ago, it took the form of a case of arguable tit-for-tat at the Capitol: State Sens. Matt Jones and Steve Fenberg of Boulder County voted against additional funding for the Attorney General’s Office as a way of pushing back at AG Cynthia Coffman. It was a symbolic gesture by the two Democratic lawmakers on a routine fiscal measure in the Republican-controlled upper chamber, but they wanted to register their anger at Coffman for her previous jab at their home county. The attorney general had issued an ultimatum in a letter to their county’s commission last month: Either lift their nearly-5-year-old moratorium on new oil and gas exploration within Boulder County, or face “appropriate legal action” from her office. The county politely said no.
Today, Coffman followed through. Her office announced it is suing Boulder County over what Coffman — pointing to court rulings — contends is an illegal moratorium:
The Boulder Commissioners…have re-imposed or extended the moratorium eight separate times. Two of those extensions were passed after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in May 2016 that local bans on oil or gas development are preempted if they conflict with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act, which regulates all aspects of oil and gas development and operations within the State. After the Supreme Court’s ruling in the City of Longmont and City of Fort Collins cases, other local governments acted to lift similar bans — except for Boulder County.
…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.
Jimmy Sengenberger interviewed Coffman on the “Business for Breakfast” show on KDMT radio station Tuesday morning.
She said the Colorado Supreme Court made clear last year that “the state owns the field” when it comes to regulation oil and gas development.
“Local communities have a role and can coordinate and have a voice in those regulations on the local level, but what they cannot do is interfere with the development of oil and gas in their local community, They can’t say no.
“… But Boulder has continued, and it’s the only county in the state of Colorado that continues to violate state law by saying, ‘Nope, we still aren’t going to allow this oil and gas development.'”
She added, “I suppose I could ignore the fact a local community is violating state law, but I don’t think that’s a wise or responsible thing for me to do as attorney general.”
We’ll be back with more as the story develops.