Oil and Gas Industry Drops Lawsuit Against Colorado Rules


Rules balance environmental protection with industry development


Mike Freeman, Earthjustice, (303) 996-9615

On February 3, 2011, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) dropped its legal challenge to the new Colorado oil and gas rules adopted by the state in 2008. The industry association asked the court to dismiss its lawsuit, which was filed in Colorado’s 2nd District Court in Denver in 2009. The court granted the industry’s motion and dismissed the case on February 8, 2011.

After years of an unprecedented expansion of oil and gas development in the state, Colorado legislators in 2007 overhauled the state’s regulatory scheme to bring balance to oil and gas regulation. The legislature mandated new regulations aimed at minimizing adverse impacts to wildlife from oil and gas operations and to avoid significant environmental impacts. The state oil and gas commission adopted these regulations in December 2008, and they took effect in April 2009. The new regulations protect drinking water, wildlife, and residents living near oil and gas operations.

When the oil and gas industry association filed suit seeking to invalidate Colorado’s new rules, a coalition of sportsmen and conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, intervened and vigorously opposed the challenge. The groups recognized that if industry succeeded, Coloradans would lose protections for their drinking water, limits on chemical fumes, improved standards for waste pits and cleanups, and protections for wildlife and open space.

“The end of the oil and gas industry’s legal challenge is a huge victory for Colorado,” said Earthjustice attorney Mike Freeman. “The oil and gas industry’s decision here ultimately shows that the rules are working well enough for industry. The dismissal will help cement a major step for environmental protection in Colorado.”

“We applaud the oil and gas industry’s decision to drop the legal challenge to Colorado’s oil and gas rules,” said Charlie Montgomery, Energy Program Organizer for the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “The rules are good for everyone who works in, or is concerned about, oil and gas development—citizens and industry alike.”

Sportsmen and conservation groups were instrumental in bringing this fight to its highly favorable outcome. Colorado Environmental Coalition, Western Colorado Congress, San Juan Citizens Alliance, National Wildlife Federation, Colorado Wildlife Federation, Oil and Gas Accountability Project and The Wilderness Society were represented by Earthjustice.

The 2009 rules have not harmed oil and gas investment or cost jobs. Recent state reports show that drill rig and well counts have risen in Colorado and that processing times for drilling permits are shorter than they were under the pre-2009 rules. Moreover, Colorado remains a leader among western states in oil and gas activity.

The oil and gas industry association announced its decision to drop the lawsuit in a joint press release with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Governor John Hickenlooper praised the decision, which came after discussions with current Director of the DNR Mike King who was key in drafting the new state oil and gas regulations in 2007 and 2008.

“We thank Gov. Hickenlooper for facilitating the oil and gas industry’s decision and commend Gov. Ritter for having the courage and vision to see the 2008 rulemaking through,” said Mike Chiropolos, Lands Program Director at Western Resource Advocates. “Balanced regulations and strong environmental protection make sense for Colorado’s overall economy. Now is the time for us to focus on a vision for a clean energy economy that is good for Colorado’s future.”

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Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.