Boulder County to ignore Colorado AG's deadline for ending oil, gas moratorium

Friday is the deadline that Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman set on Jan. 26 for Boulder County to end its moratorium on accepting and processing new oil and gas development applications in the unincorporated parts of the county.Boulder County has...

Boulder County to ignore Colorado AG's deadline for ending oil, gas moratorium

Friday is the deadline that Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman set on Jan. 26 for Boulder County to end its moratorium on accepting and processing new oil and gas development applications in the unincorporated parts of the county.

Boulder County has already announced, in county attorney Ben Pearlman's Jan. 27 written response, that it intended to stick with its present timetable.

That includes a March 14 pubic hearing on proposed updates to the county's oil and gas regulations with new rules can be in place by May 1 — the date the county had earlier set for ending its latest moratorium.

Coffman said in an mailed Jan. 30 statement that "we are reviewing the letter we received from Boulder County, but we stand by our position."

Deb Gardner, chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners, said in a Thursday afternoon interview that "I haven't seen anything further" from the Attorney General's Office since Pearlman sent his letter to Coffman.

Assistant County Attorney David Hughes said in an email later on Thursday afternoon that "we have not heard anything further from the attorney general."

Said Hughes: "As we explained in our prior letter" to Coffman, "we believe that the moratorium we have in place for the purpose of adopting and implementing updated regulations is consistent with Colorado law."

Annie Skinner, the attorney general's communications officer, did not respond by late Thursday afternoon to email and voicemail messages asking what Coffman intended to do, and when, if the county did not rescind its current moratorium by Friday.

Coffman said in her Jan. 26 letter that the county's often-extended moratoria — originally imposed in February 2012 — is now illegal, based on her office's interpretations of May 2016 Colorado Supreme Court rulings against Fort Collins' voter-approved five-year moratorium on oil and gas development involving the use of hydraulic fracturing to free up underground petroleum deposits and Longmont's voter-approved fracking ban.

Coffman wrote that if Boulder County did not rescind what she called "its ban on oil and gas development" by Friday, her office "will take appropriate action consistent with the recent opinions of the Colorado Supreme Court."

Pearlman said in his Jan. 27 response that if the Attorney General's Office were to decide "to pursue litigation based on its arbitrary deadline of Feb. 10" for rescinding the moratorium, "the county will be prepared to defend it."

John Fryar: 303-684-5211, jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc

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