Carbondale joins in call to governor to drop drilling suit

The Carbondale Town Council has joined in signing a letter asking Gov. John Hickenlooper to have the state drop a lawsuit challenging oil and gas drilling rules adopted by the city of Longmont.

The letter was delivered to Hickenlooper last week. It was signed by 21 county commissioners from 10 counties in Colorado, including the entire county commissioners of Summit, Grand, Park and Boulder counties, and by 60 mayors and city council members from 17 Front Range and Western Slope communities, including the entire boards of Carbondale, Crested Butte, Lyons, Westminster and Bennett.

The lawsuit by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission contends Longmont’s rules overstep its bounds and extend into areas of state authority.

“Local governments have a long history of using our existing authorities to govern industrial and development activities — including oil and gas development — within our borders on behalf of the public good,” Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot said in a news release about the letter to Hickenlooper. “This well-established local authority has been repeatedly upheld by the courts.”

No drilling is occurring in Carbondale, but a local coalition is trying to prevent drilling in what it calls the Thompson Divide area west of town.

Longmont’s measures limit surface oil and gas operations and facilities to non-residential zones, encourage companies to consolidate operations in fewer overall facilities, and fast-track the city’s review process for companies meeting voluntary standards such as setbacks from homes and schools.

“If each municipality designed their own rules, the ability for industry to navigate those rules would be prohibitive, almost impossible,” Hickenlooper said at a forum in Longmont last week. “If we don’t have consistent regulations, with sufficient flexibility for the needs of our local communities ... we’re going to have chaos.”

The letter from elected officials said, “We wholeheartedly support the State setting minimum standards and best management practices for the oil and gas industry, but also believe that local jurisdictions must be allowed to tailor or strengthen rules, as needed, to address local concerns and conditions.”

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association industry group has intervened in the state lawsuit. Tisha Schuller, president and chief executive officer of COGA, said in a prepared statement Friday, “Local governments up and down the Front Range have been tackling this issue, and the vast majority have found a legal solution that protects their community’s interests within the state’s permitting framework. Even Longmont was able to achieve their objectives through an agreement with the operator, without necessitating the passage of their rules.

“We will continue to work in good faith with cities and counties to address their citizens’ interests and continuously improve our relationships with our neighbors and fellow Coloradoans.”


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