Boulder Residents Challenge Oil & Gas Prohibition
Lawsuit alleges oil and gas extraction ban is an illegal taking

by Avery Martinez

Two private citizens in Boulder, co-members of a trust, filed a complaint against the City of Boulder over a categorical ban on oil and gas extraction within city limits and on municipal land. The plaintiffs assert that the ban, in place since 2013, deprives oil and gas owners of their property without compensation, according to the complaint.

“This ban has deprived mineral owners of their property without just compensation, which violates the [U.S.] Constitution,” the complaint states. “Boulder has effected a ‘taking’ of mineral rights within its city limits and underneath City-owned land, and owes mineral right owners compensation for this taking.”

John and Valorie Wells have owned the mineral rights in question since 1981 and are represented by the Public Trust Institute, a Colorado nonprofit that defines its mission as being to “uphold our state’s constitution and defend the principles of individual freedom and personal responsibility.”

Sarah Huntley, director of communications and engagement for the City of Boulder, confirmed that the city would review the complaint and had no further comment on the litigation.

The complaint alleges that under federal and state constitutions, the taking of private property for public use without just compensation is prohibited. With the implementation of a ban on oil and gas extraction in Boulder in 2013, the value of the Wellses’  mineral rights have been “destroyed,” the complaint says. John Wells obtained the rights to the oil and gas beneath the property in 1981 as part of an investment and business venture. At the time, he was working with a geologist who identified the property as having possibilities for fossil fuel production.

This complete article appears in the Feb. 15 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read other articles from that issue, order a copy online.Subscribers can request a digital PDF of the issue.