On February 14, 2017, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman filed suit in Colorado state court to enjoin Boulder County’s five-year moratorium on new drilling permits. The Attorney General alleges in the petition that the County has extended or re-imposed the five-year moratorium a total of eight times and that the moratorium has continuously been in place since 2012. The complaint further alleges that the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously determined that local governments lack the authority to ban oil and natural gas development in two significant 2016 decisions, City of Longmont v. Colo. Oil & Gas Ass’n, 369 P.3d 573 (Colo. 2016) and City of Fort Collins v. Colo. Oil & Gas Ass’n, 369 P.3d 586 (Colo. 2016). Specifically, the Attorney General notes that local bans on unconventional development may not materially impede or make superfluous the application of state law, namely, the Oil and Gas Conservation Act and the regulations promulgated thereunder.
The County has alleged that the extension of the five year moratorium is necessary so that the County can draft sufficiently stringent regulations and prepare to accept new drilling permit applications from operators.