Attorney General Cynthia Coffman filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Boulder County over its moratorium on oil and gas activity.
This has been a long-standing dispute between the predominantly Democratic and environmentally minded county and the Republican attorney general. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in May 2016 that local governments cannot have restrictions on oil and gas drilling that conflict with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act, and Coffman said she’s obligated to enforce state law. Boulder County didn’t repeal its moratorium like other local jurisdictions did. Coffman warned the county in January that she would file a lawsuit if it didn’t lift its moratorium.
The deadline was Friday, and Boulder County did not budge. The county commissioners said they needed more time to develop regulations before accepting new applications, but Coffman said the county had had plenty of time and was basically dragging its feet.
“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,” the attorney general’s office said in a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit. “Regrettably, Boulder County’s open defiance of state law has made legal action the final recourse available to the state.”
Democratic lawmakers who represent Boulder County said Coffman was doing the bidding of industry.
Foote and other Democratic lawmakers moved last week to withhold funding for certain positions from the attorney general’s office if she insisted on moving forward with the lawsuit.
They believe the industry should sue if it thinks Boulder County is violating the law rather than seek intervention from the AG.
The oil and gas industry does, in fact, support this lawsuit.
“It’s not about drilling, or fracking, or pipelines, it’s about the law,” the Colorado Oil and Gas Association said in a statement. “And the law is clear: Long-term moratoriums — and this one is over five years now — are illegal. Boulder County shouldn’t be surprised that the Attorney General cares about the rule of law in Colorado.”