Oil and gas firm Sovereign to sue Broomfield over voter-approved 5 year fracking ban

Oil and gas firm Sovereign to sue Broomfield over fracking ban by Megan Quinn, April 22, 2014, Colorado Daily
Oil and gas company Sovereign plans to sue Broomfield to bypass the city’s controversial, voter-approved five-year ban on fracking. Sovereign planned in 2013 to drill new wells in Broomfield but was not able to because voters in November narrowly approved a ban on fracking. Sovereign argues that its drilling plans were illegally put on hold because the company previously entered into a legal agreement, known as a memorandum of understanding. That agreement would have enabled the company to drill in Broomfield under strict regulations.

The Broomfield City Council on Tuesday night approved an agreement with Sovereign that would allow a judge to determine whether Sovereign is subject to the fracking ban. If the judge rules in Sovereign’s favor, the company would be able to continue its drilling plans, according to Broomfield attorney Bill Tuthill.

Regardless of the council’s action Tuesday, Sovereign plans to file its lawsuit within about a week, Tuthill said.

It is not clear how long the matter will be in court, he said.

Tom Metzger, chief operating officer of Sovereign, said he would not comment on the decision because the company wants the legal process to play out in court. The agreement signed Tuesday suspends some of Sovereign’s other complaints in order to focus solely on the issue of whether Sovereign can bypass the ban.

“This isn’t the beginning, and it certainly isn’t the end” of the process, said council member Liz Law-Evans. According to documents filed in Broomfield District Court, Sovereign states it should not be subject to the ban because of the company’s pre-existing contract with Broomfield. It would have allowed Sovereign to drill 21 new wells at 10 different sites in Broomfield, Tuthill said. The measure that banned fracking in Broomfield, Question 300, was petitioned onto the ballot by Our Broomfield, a grass-roots group with concerns about the impacts of fracking on health and environment. It rallied to get the question on the ballot in response to Sovereign’s plans to frack wells in the North Park area near Prospect Ridge Academy.

Broomfield has 97 active wells. The companies running those wells, such as Anadarko, Encana and Sovereign, have drilled in Broomfield in the past but haven’t drilled on those sites since the summer of 2013, Tuthill said. [Emphasis added]

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