First-of-its-Kind Class Action Lawsuit Asks Court to Overturn the Preemptive Provisions of Colorado’s Oil and Gas Act and Dismiss Fracking Industry’s Lawsuit Against Lafayette

Stacey Schmader
Administrative Director

LAFAYETTE, CO:  Today, residents of Lafayette filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against the State of Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) to enforce the Lafayette Community Bill of Rights.

Filed in the Boulder County District Court, the motion seeks to prohibit the state and industry from using the Colorado Oil and Gas Act to override the community’s right to local self-government, including its right to ban fracking.  The motion was filed as part of the residents’ class action lawsuit brought against the state and industry.

•    November 2013 – Lafayette residents adopt Home Rule Charter Amendment establishing a Community Bill of Rights which bans fracking
•    December 2013 – COGA sues Lafayette to overturn the Bill of Rights
•    June 2014 – Lafayette residents file class action lawsuit against state and industry
•    August 2014 – Lafayette residents file motion seeking preliminary injunction to stop COGA’s lawsuit from moving forward

In November, residents of Lafayette overwhelmingly voted to amend the city’s Home Rule Charter.  The Charter Amendment establishes a Community Bill of Rights – including the right of human and natural communities to water and a healthy environment.  The Bill of Rights bans fracking and other extraction as a violation of those rights.

In December, COGA sued Lafayette to overturn the city’s Bill of Rights.  The association contends that the community does not have the legal authority to ban fracking within Lafayette, and that its corporate members have the constitutional right to frack.

In June, residents of Lafayette filed a first-of-its-kind class action lawsuit against the state and COGA to enforce the Bill of Rights.  In the lawsuit, residents are arguing that parts of the Oil and Gas Act – and the industry’s enforcement of the Act – violate the constitutional rights of residents to local, community self-government, including their right to ban fracking.

In today’s motion seeking a preliminary injunction, residents are asking the court to prohibit COGA’s lawsuit against the city from moving forward until the class action lawsuit is decided, and to declare parts of the Oil and Gas Act unconstitutional.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted Lafayette residents to draft the Community Bill of Rights, and is providing its support and expertise to plaintiffs in the suit.  Plaintiffs Clifton Willmeng and Ann Griffin are members of the Colorado Community Rights Network, a group established in late 2013 to advance local and statewide democracy, and environmental and economic justice and sustainability.

Regarding today’s filing of the motion for preliminary injunction, CELDF Executive Director, Thomas Linzey, Esq., stated, “The right to local, community self-government serves as the foundation for the American system of law, and is a central tenet of our Declaration of Independence and state and federal constitutions.  Yet the people’s right to self-governance has been routinely ignored by our elected representatives and overridden by the courts in favor of corporate rights.”

Linzey added, “This class action lawsuit is merely the first of many by people across the United States whose constitutional rights to self-govern are routinely violated by state governments working in concert with the corporations that they ostensibly regulate.  The people of Lafayette will not stand idly by as their rights are negotiated away by oil and gas corporations, and by their state government.”

Through grassroots organizing and public interest law, CELDF works with communities across the country to secure community rights to democratic, local self-governance and sustainability.  CELDF has assisted more than 150 communities to ban shale gas drilling and fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other threats to the environment.  Recognizing that corporate “rights” are incompatible with the rights of communities and nature, CELDF has assisted the first communities in the U.S. to eliminate corporate constitutional rights when they conflict with community and nature’s rights.  As part of this work, CELDF has assisted the first communities in the U.S. to establish the rights of nature in law.

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