Longmont piling up legal fees defending fracking lawsuits

As Fort Collins awaits similar fracking lawsuit, Longmont racks up $69,000 in legal fees

Longmont faces two lawsuits related to its oil and gas restrictions

The Coloradoan
May 2, 2013

If you’re wondering what it might cost Fort Collins to defend itself in court if it is sued for banning fracking, the answer is a quickly moving target.

The only other city in Colorado to ban fracking and restrict energy development within city limits is Longmont, which has spent nearly $69,000 in legal fees through March 31 defending itself against two lawsuits challenging the city’s oil and gas regulations.

A Colorado Open Records Act request this week revealed that the city of Longmont has spent $21,196 in attorney’s fees and other costs through March 31 fighting a lawsuit filed against the city late last year by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, or COGA, which is challenging the city’s fracking ban.

A lawsuit filed by the state last summer challenging Longmont’s strict new oil and gas regulations has cost the city $47,622 to fight in court as of March 31.

Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat said Thursday city officials have not discussed how much it might cost Fort Collins to fight any future lawsuit challenging the city’s fracking ban because no lawsuit has been filed yet.

“Once that gets into real litigation and you start talking about all the resources that go there, then the numbers start to escalate,” she said. “The bottom line is not only what it costs going in, (but) what happens if you lose. Then it becomes even greater.”

After the Fort Collins City Council voted to ban fracking in March, Gov. John Hickenlooper said it’s the state’s obligation to sue any city that does so because the state has sole domain over regulating oil and gas extraction.

COGA has also suggested a lawsuit may be imminent.

Litigation in the two Longmont lawsuits is ongoing, and no trial date has been set for either case.

In its lawsuit against Longmont, COGA claims the city’s fracking ban is a de facto ban on all oil and gas drilling, amounts to an illegal “taking” of private mineral property and pre-empts the state’s authority to regulate oil and gas drilling in the city. Different aspects of the case are being heard in both Boulder and Weld county courts.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission lawsuit, filed in Boulder County last July, seeks to invalidate a Longmont ordinance imposing strict oil and gas regulations in the city. The ordinance was passed before Longmont voters approved a fracking ban in November.

COGCC claims state law pre-empts Longmont’s authority to regulate oil and gas within its city limits.

Follow reporter Bobby Magill at Twitter.com/bobbymagill.



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