April 27, 2017
County Commissioners call on all oil and gas operators in Boulder County to shut down their vertical wells
(Boulder County, Colo.) -- On Wednesday, April 26, the same day that Anadarko Petroleum shut down 3000 of its wells after a house explosion in the Town of Firestone, Boulder District Court Judge Norma A. Sierra issued an order denying Boulder County’s motion to dismiss claims filed against the county by the Attorney General and the oil and gas industry.
In its lawsuit against Boulder County, the State of
Colorado claimed that the county’s moratorium on accepting oil and gas
applications violated state law. In ruling on the county’s motion, the Boulder
District Court's order did not call for the repeal of the county’s temporary moratorium
(a moratorium that is scheduled to end in three business days - on May 1), but instead gave the county 14 days to respond to summary
judgment motions previously filed by the state and the oil and gas industry.
Although the county commissioners announced at a public meeting on April 25 that they
did not intend to extend the moratorium beyond May 1, because of the 2016 decisions by the Colorado
Supreme Court prohibiting local bans or lengthy moratoria on fracking, the court determined that it was “beyond the court’s authority to speculate as
to what may occur on May 1, 2017.”
Although the court did not issue a formal
declaration regarding the legality of the county’s moratorium, it did not mince
words in reaching its conclusion, stating that “Boulder County currently
imposes a moratorium that does not comply with Fort Collins,” a Colorado
Supreme Court case that overturned a five-year moratorium.
“The court order shows that the county commissioners
had no other course of action to take when they announced this week that they
would not extend the moratorium,” said David Hughes, Deputy County Attorney.
“As we’ve seen from prior cases, it is always an uphill battle when local
governments are fighting against the oil and gas industry. The commissioners
have done all they can as allowed by law on the moratorium front.”
The court’s decision comes in the wake of a deadly explosion last week that killed two Firestone residents in a home located approximately 200 feet from
a well operated by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. Anadarko has shut down all
similar wells pending further inspection.
As a result of this tragedy - the latest local example of the potential dangers of drilling for oil and gas near residential neighborhoods - the county commissioners have issued the following statement:
Statement from the Board of County Commissioners
The tragic home
explosion in Firestone last week is another serious illustration of how important
it is that we continue to work to protect the health and safety of residents on
all fronts available to us, even if the moratorium option is not an available
tool from a legal standpoint,
Colorado counties and cities
have their hands tied by the state in prohibiting the highly industrial use of
oil and gas development near residential areas. We are given too limited a regulatory role as compared
to other similar uses, which is why it is so important for the county and our
residents to continue to push the state for adequate local authority.
also important that Boulder County continue its robust monitoring program, participating
in public health studies, helping homeowners and businesses reduce their
reliance on fossil fuels, and working with other communities statewide.
In response to the deadly explosion in Firestone, we call
on all oil and gas operators in Boulder County to shut down their vertical
wells, just as Anadarko has, until they can assure our residents that these wells
do not pose similar safety risks in Boulder County.
We are all in
this together, sharing the common goal of working towards what’s best for
Boulder County. As your Board of County Commissioners, we pledge to continue to do all that we can to protect this county and its residents from the
impacts of oil and gas development and to forge ahead with a cleaner energy
future for us all.
Domenico. Deb Gardner, Elise Jones