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A judge overturned Fort Collins' five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing Thursday, making it the third big blow to efforts by grassroots groups and politicians working to ban fracking in communities throughout the state.
District Judge Gregory M. Lammons ruled on the lawsuit filed in late 2013 by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association challenging the bans passed by voters in Fort Collins and Longmont stating that the Fort Collins moratorium is preempted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act because it “impedes a state interest and prohibits what the state law allows.”
“The City’s five-year ban effectively eliminates the possibility of oil and gas development within the City,” Lammons writes. “This is so because hydraulic fracturing is used in ‘virtually all oil and gas wells’ in Colorado. To eliminate a technology that is used in virtually all oil and gas wells would substantially impede the state’s interest in oil and gas production.”
The moratorium in Fort Collins stopped new wells from being fracked within city limits, while the city performed a study on the health impacts of fracking. City officials now have seven weeks to decide if it plans to appeal the court's decision.
"We are disappointed at the outcome," Interim City Attorney Carrie Daggett told the Coloradoan. The city is reviewing the judge's order and will be considering its options, Daggett said.
"The decision of overturning the protective moratorium in Fort Collins against the inherent human and environmental dangers of fracking is yet another display of puppetry enforced by the regulatory scheme," said Shane Davis, aka The Fractivist.
On Monday, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) pulled two ballot measures from the November ballot that sought to provide far greater local control of Colorado’s fracking industry. The initiatives would have forced fracking wells to be 2,000 feet from schools, hospitals and other community facilities, and established an environmental bill of rights allowing local governments precedence when laws conflict with the state.
Late July, Boulder County District Court Judge D.D. Mallard ruled against Longmont's fracking ban in favor of "state's interest," clearly stating that concerns about health risks to residents don’t quite stack up against Colorado’s stake in the oil and gas industries. Voters approved the ban in 2012, but the Colorado Oil and Gas Association never stopped fighting to overturn it.
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