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May 31, 2018

Counties and cities ask Colorado Supreme Court to protect public health and safety in oil and gas regulations

Contact: Barb Halpin, Public Information Officer, Boulder County Commissioners' Office, 303-441-1622

A diverse set of communities has filed an amicus brief arguing that the COGCC should prioritize public health and safety when it considers rules related to oil and gas development.

Boulder County, Colo. - The Colorado Supreme Court issued an order on May 30 accepting a brief filed by 15 Colorado counties and cities in Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission v. Martinez.

The amicus brief includes legal arguments supporting the position that the COGCC should prioritize public health and safety when it considers rules related to oil and gas development.

Community partners who came together to file the brief represent diverse geographic, political, and population characteristics of Colorado, and include:

  • Boulder County
  • City of Boulder
  • City and County of Broomfield
  • City of Commerce City
  • Eagle County
  • Town of Erie
  • City of Ft. Collins
  • Gunnison County
  • City of Lafayette
  • City of Longmont
  • City of Louisville
  • Pitkin County
  • San Miguel County
  • Summit County
  • City of Westminster

“Our residents are very concerned with the potential health effects of oil and gas development,” said Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones. “The COGCC is telling the Supreme Court that it does not have to make the protection of public health and safety its primary responsibility. That is not only wrong—it’s dangerous.”

According to COGCC records, over 2,700 reported spills have occurred within the last five years. At least twelve explosions and fires have occurred at oil and gas well sites within the last year, in addition to the Firestone tragedy that claimed two lives.

“It is significant that so many diverse local governments across Colorado have come together to file this amicus brief,” said Sharon Tessier, Broomfield City Councilwoman. “Our communities are being impacted by residential oil and gas development and we believe the outcome of this case will provide us with guidance on how much longer and harder we need to fight to create the equity for our residents around health, safety, and welfare.”

Since the COGCC filed its appeal on May 17, 2017, the number of active oil and gas wells in Colorado has increased nearly 6% – from 51,711 active wells one year ago to 54,811 today.

The primary argument in the local government amicus brief is that protection of public health, safety, and welfare should be the primary role of government, including the COGCC.

"The notion that the COGCC should prioritize public health, safety and welfare in reviewing oil and gas development is hardly novel and frankly is just good common sense,” said John Messner, Gunnison County Commissioner. “Cities and counties throughout Colorado have regulations for land use decisions that protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens, and these regulations have not negatively impacted development. If anything they have improved it."

“We hope the Court seriously considers our argument,” said City of Lafayette Mayor Christine Berg. “As we said in the brief, the primary duty of the COGCC is to protect the public health, safety, and welfare, not to balance it against the desire of for-profit corporations.”