On Tuesday, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman appeared on KDMT’s (1690am) Business for Breakfast with host Jimmy Sengenberger to announce her intention to intervene in a dispute between Boulder County and the state Oil and Gas Commission.
Coffman has decided to file a lawsuit – seeking a permanent injunction– to end Boulder County’s five-year-old moratorium on oil and gas development, which was instituted in February 2012 and continued via extensions approved by the Boulder County Commission.
The moratorium and subsequent extensions were passed with the intention to “allow them time to develop new regulations in their county and prepare to accept new applications for oil and gas development in Boulder County” Coffman explained.
While other local communities have instituted similar moratoriums – specifically in Longmont, which prompted a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in May 2016 that found a moratorium lasting two-and-a-half years is too long — Boulder’s moratorium is uniquely the only one statewide which remains in place.
Sengenberger inquired as to how the Attorney General arrived at the decision to file suit. In her response, Coffman confirmed that the decision is discretionary to her office, but seemed to be triggered by a “magic number”.
HOST JIMMY SENGENBERGER: […] Is this a choice you’re able to make, sort of, with your own discretion, or is this something that would be required for you to move forward with, as Attorney General?
COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I suppose I could ignore it–the fact that a local community is violating state law – but I don’t think that is a wise or responsible thing for me to do as Attorney General. […] So, for five years they’ve just continued to extend their moratorium. Their last extension was in December of last year. And attorneys for the Oil and Gas Commission told them at that point and in public hearings, “Look, you’re violating the law and the Supreme Court rulings in cases involving Longmont and Fort Collins — that were directly on point – in May of 2016 and said, ’Communities, you can’t do this any longer.’” Boulder is the only one that continues to say “no”, and to lock down any new applications for oil and gas development, which hit the five-year mark – which is sort of the magic number as far as we are concerned in our office. And that was last week. And we just said, “All right. This is enough.” We can’t continue to indulge Boulder in taking more time to write regulations, [as Boulder is continuing to request].
Later in the interview, the Attorney General also pre-emptively defended against charges of doing the bidding on behalf of the Oil and Gas Commission of Colorado, which inexplicably are not filing the lawsuit directly, despite their position with standing and their previous involvement in the case.
Coffman stated to Sengenberger that her direct involvement was driven by a number of considerations, including the long history [of oil and gas industry] in Colorado bringing well-paying jobs to the state which have fueled our economy, and protecting Colorado’s reputation as “business friendly” by enforcing parity and predictability in policy.
Journalist David Sirota, in his International Business Times article on Coffman’s intervention in the Boulder County dispute, reviewed reports and analyses of campaign finance disclosures which show steep increases in campaign contributions in 2014 and 2016 Colorado races from oil and gas donors. The implication is that Coffman directly and indirectly benefitted from the influence of oil and gas campaign donations, and therefore her rationale is subject to scrutiny.
Further coverage of Attorney General Coffman’s interview can be found in the Coloradopolitics.com blog piece, linked here.