By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – State lawmakers are wading into a fight over fracking in Boulder County with threats of withholding funding from a state agency.
Budget requests typically pass the state legislature with little fanfare. But, when the state Senate took up an appropriation for the Attorney General’s Office Friday morning, Sen. Matt Jones of Boulder County opposed it along with nine other lawmakers.
“The reason I did that is she’s willing to sue Boulder County over oil and gas rules and she doesn’t need to do that. Taxpayers are paying for this and they’re getting sued,” says Jones, a Democrat representing Louisville.
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman sent a letter to Boulder County Commissioners last month warning them that if they didn’t rescind their ban on oil and gas development by Feb. 10, her office would take legal action.
Coffman noted that the Colorado Supreme Court had ruled last year that local governments couldn’t ban oil and gas development. Boulder County’s moratorium, she said, was “a clear violation of state law.”
Boulder County responded that it needed time to update regulations after the court ruling. The moratorium, it said, expires May 1.
“The fact is oil and gas needs to be regulated well in Boulder County and the County needs time to do that and she doesn’t want to give the time,” says Jones.
Rep. Mike Foote says if the oil and gas industry thinks the moratorium is a violation of law, it should sue, not the Attorney General.
“By the time anything gets filed and argued in court it’s going to be past May 1. So, it’s not really for reason to get Boulder County to get rid of the moratorium, it’s more just to make a statement. It’s more just to try to advocate for the oil and gas industry. That’s exactly what’s happening here. The Attorney General should not be threating to sue a local government on behalf of a private company. If the oil and gas industry wants to sue, they should sue. The oil and gas industry should do it’s own dirty work,” said Foote, a Democrat representing eastern Boulder County.
Foote is also making a statement. He convinced members of the Joint Budget Committee to table a request by the Attorney General’s office for five new full time positions.
“The problem is she apparently has enough resources to threaten Boulder County and if she has enough extra resources to do that, I’m not sure why she would need extra people that the taxpayers need to pay for,” said Foote.
Attorney General Coffman says while Boulder County has said its moratorium expires May 1, it has a pattern of extending moratoriums. Her office says the county has through the end of Friday to come into compliance.