Boulder County: The People of Colorado vs. Boulder County

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman followed through on Feb. 14 with her threat to sue Boulder County over its “moratorium” on accepting oil and gas permit applications. The complaint lists as defendants the county and the Boulder County Commissioners. Plaintiffs were the people of Colorado and the state, represented by Coffman.

Coffman sent Boulder County a warning last month. Boulder County Attorney Ben Pearlman responded, saying the County updated its gas and oil regulations in 2012 and needed more time.

In announcing the suit, Coffman said, “because Boulder County continues to operate in clear violation of Colorado law, the Attorney General today is filing suit in Boulder County District Court to compel compliance. It is not the job of industry to enforce Colorado law; that is the role of the Attorney General on behalf of the People of Colorado.”

Coffman noted that Boulder County has “extended or re-imposed the moratorium a total of eight times, and the moratorium has been in place continuously since 2012, for a total of over five years. The complaint asked the judge to stop Boulder County from enforcing its current moratorium and to prohibit the County from creating any new moratorium or restrictions on oil and gas development. The County Commissioners responded, saying the lawsuit is” a sweetheart deal for the oil and gas industry, but a massive waste of Coloradans’ tax dollars for the State to sue us on industry’s behalf, and we are prepared to defend our right to safeguard the health, safety, and wellbeing of our constituents.”

Last spring the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a permanent ban on oil and gas operations in Longmont was illegal, as well as a five-year, voter-approved moratorium in Fort Collins. The Court noted that the State has overarching authority to regulate oil and gas operations because it has an interest in ensuring Colorado’s resources are developed in an efficient, responsible manner.

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