In November 2012, the City of Longmont, Colorado, passed an amendment to the city charter, by way of ballot initiative, which amended the city charter to ban hydraulic fracturing and the storage or disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste within the City of Longmont. Also in 2012, voters in the City of Lafayette, Colorado, approved an amendment to their city charter, prohibiting corporations or persons acting through corporations from extracting oil and gas. The City of Lafayette’s charter amendment also prohibited all related oil and gas activities, but active wells producing at the time that the charter amendment was enacted were allowed to continue to produce. In November 2013, the City of Fort Collins, Colorado, passed and enacted a citizen-initiated ballot measure placing a five-year moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing and the storage of fracturing waste within the City of Fort Collins.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) challenged each of these measures. In COGA’s suit against the City of Longmont, the courts joined the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (Commission) as a necessary party. In each of these three actions, the district courts granted plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment, finding that the municipalities were preempted from prohibiting oil and gas extraction and/or hydraulic fracturing within their boundaries. The law in Colorado is settled: the Oil and Gas Conservation Act preempts local land use regulation of oil and gas activity that is inconsistent with the Act. On March 5, 2015, MSLF filed a friend of the court brief in support of COGA with the Colorado Court of Appeals.
On August 17, 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals certified the issues before it to the Colorado Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals asserted that the Colorado Supreme Court should decide the issues because the subject matter of the appeal has significant public interest and because the case involves legal principles of major significance. On September 21, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court granted the Court of Appeals' request for certification. On December 9, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court heard oral argument.
On May 2, 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court issued an opinion upholding the lower court's decision and, consistent with the brief filed by MSLF, ruling expressly that Longmont's hydraulic fracturing ban is preempted by Colorado's Oil and Gas Act.