Oct. 23–After more than a year of opposing drilling in Broomfield, a residents’ group and an environmental organization said Tuesday they are suing the city over its approval of a plan for 84 wells.
Announcement of the lawsuit, filed in district court by Broomfield-based Residents Rights and WildEarth Guardians, comes two weeks before Colorado voters will decide whether to mandate larger buffers between wells and occupied buildings. Proposition 112 would require new wells be drilled a minimum of 2,500 feet from homes, schools and water sources.
The current setback is 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from densely occupied buildings, such as hospitals and schools.
The lawsuit against Charles Ozaki, Broomfield County and city manager, seeks to defend a 2017 voter-approved change to the city charter that allows oil and gas development only if it does not adversely impact the health, safety, and welfare of residents, wildlife or the environment. The complaint also contends the drilling plan doesn’t comply with the city’s extraction operator agreement.
“Broomfield residents have pleaded with city officials to listen to their people and defend the public interest,” resident Cristen Logan said in a statement. “A lawsuit isn’t what we wanted to see happen, but we have been left with no other recourse.”
A statement by the city attorney’s and city manager’s offices said they are reviewing the lawsuit.
“The city spent many months negotiating with Extraction Oil and Gas to include the most protective best management practices in Colorado in the Operator Agreement and implemented those in the comprehensive drilling plan,” the statement said. “The best management practices include measures to protect public health, safety and welfare consistent with Broomfield’s charter and well beyond anything provided in state law.”
After approving the drilling plan, the city manager wrote a Sept. 10 letter to Extraction Oil and Gas saying the company is expected to comply with all the safety measures in the city’s operator agreement and continually review steps to minimize the drilling’s impacts and conduct safety reviews.
On its website, the city cites Colorado law and court cases to say that local governments can’t prohibit oil and gas development within their jurisdiction or prohibit hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. “The city’s goal is to develop strategy and legally permissible tools that best reflect Broomfield’s community values,” according to the website.
In 2013, Broomfield residents approved a five-year fracking moratorium but the city withdrew it after the Colorado Supreme Court overturned fracking bans by Longmont and Fort Collins in 2016. The court said the state’s power to regulate the oil and gas industry trumps local measures.
Dan Leftwich, one of the attorneys representing Residents Rights and WildEarth Guardians, said the new lawsuit deals with different issues: the city’s duty to protect the public’s health and safety as part of its police powers, and the right of citizen initiative under the Colorado constitution.
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