Attorney General's Office Issues Warning on Local Regulations Pushed by Anti-Oil and Gas Groups
DENVER (Aug. 15, 2017) – The office of Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is once again warning local officials not to pass unlawful restrictions on oil and natural gas development at the behest of outside activist groups.
The latest warning comes in a letter from Coffman’s office to the City of Thornton, where local regulations will receive a second reading vote Tuesday, Aug. 22.
“Under the law of operational preemption, local governments may not enact regulations that conflict with the Oil and Gas Conservation Act … or COGCC regulations in a matter of mixed or statewide concern,” Assistant Attorney General Kyle Davenport wrote in a recently surfaced letter, originally sent on July 25. “Many matters addressed by the Draft Regulations are already regulated by the COGCC and similar regulations have caused local communities to come into conflict with the state in the past.”
In response to the Attorney General’s Office’s letter, Vital for Colorado Chairman Peter Moore released the following statement:
“The attorney general’s office is saying local officials who stand up to anti-fracking groups will have the law on their side. They will also be saving their taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasteful spending on litigation, because state law could not be clearer on this point.
The Colorado Supreme Court reaffirmed decades of case law in a decision last year striking down local energy bans. In that decision, the court said a local ordinance ‘that authorizes what state law forbids or that forbids what state law authorizes’ will be necessarily preempted by state law and COGCC regulations.
This decision, along with the failure of statewide anti-fracking ballot measures, was a huge defeat for the anti-fracking campaign in Colorado. So now they are giving local officials just plain bad legal advice to trigger more conflict and more litigation, instead of constructive dialogue.”
National “keep it in the ground” groups, including 350.org and Food & Water Watch have been lobbying local officials in Thornton and other Front Range cities for years.
For example, Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org who has described the oil and gas industry as a “zombie” he’s trying to “kill,” campaigned in Thornton last year during the failed campaign for anti-drilling ballot measures that would have effectively banned oil and gas development statewide.
Food & Water Watch, which is campaigning to “ban fracking everywhere,” hosted an activist training session in Thornton last month to “build power at the local level.” The training session, which took place less than two weeks before the Thornton City Council’s first reading vote on oil and gas regulations, also included the national group Earthworks and its Colorado organizer Josh Joshwick, who advocates the use of local regulations, drilling bans and other “street fight” tactics to block oil and gas development.
All three groups – 350.org, Food & Water Watch and Earthworks – are part of the “keep it in the ground” network of fringe environmental groups that seeks a blanket ban on oil and natural gas drilling, no matter where it’s produced or how it’s regulated.
The activist campaign to pressure local officials has also included unsuccessful recall efforts of local officials in Thornton and in neighboring Broomfield.