A Colorado district court judge on Thursday invalidated the city of Longmont's fracking ban, a decision celebrated by oil and gas industry and denounced by critics who say it prioritizes the extractive process over public health and the environment.
Longmont made a landmark move in 2012 when voters approved with strong support an amendment to the city’s charter to ban fracking.
The vote was promptly followed by a lawsuit by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) challenging the ban. State regulatory body Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and locally-operating oil and gas company TOP Operating later joined the suit.
In his ruling, Judge Mallard stated, "The Court is not in a position to agree or disagree with any of these exhibits that support the Defendants’ position that hydraulic fracturing causes serious health, safety, and environmental risks."
"While the Court appreciates the Longmont citizens’ sincerely-held beliefs about risks to their health and safety, the Court does not find this is sufficient to completely devalue the State’s interest, thereby making the matter one of purely local interest."
There is "an irreconcilable conflict" between the city's interest in banning fracking and the state's interest in extraction," Mallard found.
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Longmont's fracking ban "impedes the orderly development of Colorado’s mineral resources," and is invalid, the ruling states.
The judge also ordered the fracking ban to hold during the time allotted for appeals.
Tisha Schuller, head of COGA, said the decision was "something to celebrate for the industry."
But supporters of the fracking ban have vowed to continue their fight.
“While we respectfully disagree with the Court’s final decision, she was correct that we were asking this Court, in part, to place protection from the health, safety, and environmental risks from fracking over the development of mineral resources,” stated Kaye Fissinger, President of Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, one of the intervenors for the city in the lawsuit.
“It’s tragic that the judge views the current law in Colorado is one in which fracking is more important than public health; reversing that backwards priority is a long-term battle that we’re determined to continue,” Fissinger stated.