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Longmont fracking ban appeal at Supreme Court crossroads

When it comes to whether the city of Longmont can ban hydraulic fracturing, the ball is in the state’s highest court.

On Monday the Colorado Court of Appeals said the matter of whether Longmont’s voter-approved ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, interfered with the state’s interest in the oil and gas industry was better left up to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Now, the state Supreme Court must decide if they want to take on Longmont’s case and a similar case of a 5-year fracking moratorium in Fort Collins.

A district court judge last year overturned the ban — which had been challenged by industry group Colorado Oil and Gas Association. The judge allowed Longmont’s ban to stay in place while the city appealed the decision.

Richard B. Collins, a professor of law at the University of Colorado, said the next step is for the state Supreme Court justices to hold a secret vote and decide whether to take the case.

Jon Sarche, deputy public information officer for the state judicial department, said that the Court can make that decision at their leisure. Collins is betting it will happen sooner rather than later.

“I’m confident they will do it promptly because if they are going to deny it, then they can let the Court of Appeals get on with it,” Collins said. “The question is if they want to read a bunch of papers about the case or accept it based on the Court of Appeals judgment.”

Related: Longmont fracking ban lawsuit wedged between two ’92 cases

Longmont spokesman Rigo Leal said for right now, city staff are “in wait-and-see mode.”

COGA spokesman Doug Flanders said in an emailed statement “We look forward to when these cases are closed, and we can get back to how local control was meant — not by banning products from your city but working together to find reasonable solutions.”

In the fiscal year 2014, 1,465 cases were filed with the Colorado Supreme Court, according to the Court’s website. The Court issued 88 written opinions, generally not reviewing cases decided by lower courts “that will affect only the parties to that case.” Instead, Court’s takes cases with questions of “broad impact.”

If the Colorado Supreme Court sends the case back to the Court of Appeals, any of the parties to the cases could choose to appeal the Court of Appeals’ decision back up to the Colorado Supreme Court, which would again have to decide whether to review it, Sarche said.

If the State Supreme Court does take the cases, the various sides in both of the cases will file briefs and the Court will set a schedule for a public oral argument, Collins said. In oral argument, each side has a set amount of time to make their case while being questioned by Colorado Supreme Court justices.

From there, it’s also up to the state Court on how fast to hear the case, Collins said, noting that the Colorado Supreme Court’s docket is relatively light compared to the Court of Appeals, so the line is not that long.

Collins said he remembered an election dispute case the Colorado Supreme Court moved into a fast track.

“The heard and decided the case in six months, and it usually takes at least a year and more like two,” Collins said. “Would they do that with this case? I don’t know.”

This article was written by Karen Antonacci from Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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