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Boulder County lawsuit against Crestone Peak dismissed


October 2, 2019 | View PDF

Late last month, a judge in Boulder County District Court dismissed 20 of the 34 claims brought in a lawsuit filed by the Board of County Commissioners in 2018 to halt a large oil and gas drilling project proposed by Crestone Peak Resources. The court further determined that the county is responsible for Crestone’s attorney’s and court fees, the total amount of which will be determined at a hearing on Jan.16, 2020.

The remaining 14 claims were either settled in Crestone’s favor, or withdrawn by the county. In a statement released on Sept. 23, the BOCC announced that it disagrees with the court’s decision, and plans to file an appeal later this year in order to “continue to protect the county’s legal rights and preserve the lands that belong to the county under our open space agreements.”

In 2017, Crestone proposed an oil and gas drilling project on open space land in unincorporated Boulder County that would create 140 new wells along Highway 52 near Erie. According to the Colorado-based company, the site could potentially bring “$398 million in tax benefits to the community, including nearly $100 million in receipts to Boulder County, more than $240 million to local schools, more than $6 million to water districts and another $50 million to Mountain View Fire District.”

A subsequent review of the proposal by Boulder County found that many of the minerals rights in question at the proposed sites had expired. Additionally, the county contends that many of the conservation easements it owns with respect to the sites prevent most development. So, in 2018, the BOCC filed suit in district court to halt Crestone’s proposed plan.

The dismissal was tough news for some, including Commissioner Deb Garner who foresaw this fight being difficult and uphill, both ways. In a press release from her office, Garner stated “Also, by awarding Crestone attorneys’ fees, the court essentially said that oil and gas operators do not have to prove they have the right to drill on someone else’s property. Instead, landowners like Boulder County have to prove that operators don’t have the right to drill and may even have to pay the operator’s attorney fees on top of that.”

Niwot resident and Lookout Alliance leadership team member Leslie Weise also decried the district court’s decision in the case. Her coalition of Niwot, Gunbarrel, and Heatherwood residents provides lectures, meet-ups, and information regarding oil and gas development in the area, and its effects on public health and safety.

“The Lookout Alliance strongly supports Boulder County's intention to appeal the recent court ruling concerning Crestone Peak Resources' outrageous plan to create the largest fracking facility in the state on Highway 52 in Boulder County. The residents of Boulder County are already exposed to high levels of carcinogenic toxins such as benzene, and dangerous levels of ozone, from the more than 20,000 oil and gas wells operating in Weld County. We applaud Boulder County's efforts to halt this heavy industrial project that will only harm us further.”

Meanwhile, the court ruling does not mean that Crestone can move forward with its proposal. Its application for the 140-well project is on hold at least until Boulder County’s drilling moratorium ends on March 28, 2020.


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