Activists sue COGA, Gov. Hickenlooper

LAFAYETTE – Activists who oppose hydraulic fracturing said Tuesday they are suing the Colorado Oil & Gas Association and Gov. John Hickenlooper, contending that a lawsuit by the oil and gas association violates Lafayette’s “right to self-governance.”

In November, Lafayette voters passed a law banning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The oil and gas association followed up in December with a lawsuit against the city of Lafayette, arguing that the city illegally banned fracking. The oil and natural-gas drilling technique involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into dense shale formations to retrieve oil and gas.

The class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday by East Boulder County United members Cliff Willmeng and Ann Griffin, seeks to enforce the Lafayette’s fracking ban. The plaintiffs said their activist group, which campaigned for the fracking ban, tried to join the other lawsuit filed by the oil and gas association, but the court did not allow it to do so.

“This suit enforces Lafayette residents’ fundamental rights, which are being directly threatened by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association,” Willmeng said. “We had to take action to protect this community, its families and property, and we will continue to assert our rights to health, safety and welfare.”

A representative of the oil and gas association did not respond to requests for comment.

Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, said the issue of local regulations that conflict with state regulations is already being addressed in the state of Colorado’s lawsuit challenging Longmont’s fracking ban.

“The state will continue to contend that state law pre-empts local attempts to regulate oil and gas that are in operational conflict with state regulations,” she said.

Willmeng also has proposed a ballot initiative that seeks to give local governments constitutional authority to ban certain businesses. Proponents are working to gather more than 86,000 signatures for the initiative to appear on the November ballot.

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