Colorado Supreme Court rules municipalities don’t have authority to ban fracking

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled the week that municipalities cannot ban hydraulic fracking, putting an end to a lengthy legal battle about the practice in the state.

On May 2, the state Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings by determining that provisions taken by Fort Collins and Longmont attempting to put a stop to fracking in the cities were invalid and unenforceable.

“I think it is good for the economy,” Leanne D. Wheeler, a U.S. Air Force veteran and the volunteer chair for Colorado Vets4Energy, told TI News. “Oil and gas is a growth sector here in Colorado and with the number of transitioning military that we see here now — we transition monthly between 850 and 1,300 service members — many of those folks have core training that translates to the oil and gas industry.”

The oil and gas industry presents great employment opportunities for veterans, Wheeler said.  

Colorado sits on a rich source of natural gas called the Niobrara Formation, which attracts numerous fracking operations. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of active oil and gas wells in Colorado rose significantly — from 22,228 wells to 43,354, according to reports.

Voters in cities along the Colorado Front Range have complained about drilling occurring too close to communities in the area in recent years.

In 2012, voters in Longmont banned fracking and the following year, voters in Fort Collins passed a five-year moratorium on the controversial practice.

The Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) filed lawsuits against the cities seeking to have the bans lifted. COGA argued that state law prohibited such bans. Two district court judges agreed and overturned the bans.

The case went before the Supreme Court after both cities appealed.

“The process had to be one of the community getting a vote on what they want to see and what they don’t want to see in their neighborhoods," Wheeler said. "That is why we all served, to give folks a right to be able to speak up for what they believe in and for what they want to see happen for themselves. And so that process played out and the courts stood by lifting the ban and work can go on. I feel good about that and Vets4energy, with its role in transitioning veterans into these livable wage jobs, feels good about that."

Proponents of oil drilling say it boosts the country’s economy, is a matter of national security, and that banning fracking will promote the nation’s reliance on foreign governments.

“If we are reliant on foreign governments to do that then there is a risk of foreign governments no longer being able to do that and it could in fact hamper our national security," Wheeler said. "That is absolutely a good thing for us that we are able to identify how to meet our own needs more and more.” 

Wheeler added that Colorado has been tapping into its natural fossil fuel resource and fracking for 60 years.

“This is work that has already been taking place," she said. "It really does come down to a matter of national security in the end, a livable wage employment for all involved — particularly with an emphasis on our transitioning military with the Vets4Energy program."