Lafayette citizens launch class action lawsuit

June 11, 2014

Class Action, Colorado, fracking

Air pollution haze at sunset over the gas field in Northeastern Colorado

Air pollution haze at sunset over the gas field in Northeastern Colorado

Lafayette citizens launch class action lawsuit to protect community rights ban on fracking

Lafayette, CO — Citizens have filed a class action lawsuit against the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the State of Colorado, and Colorado Governor Hickenlooper requesting immediate enforcement of the Lafayette Community Rights Charter Amendment to ban fracking. In November 2013, a 60% majority of Lafayette voters asserted their right to local, community self-government by enacting the Community Rights Amendment. The Community Rights Amendment protects Lafayette residents’ health, safety and welfare by enumerating certain fundamental rights and prohibiting harmful activities, such as fracking. It is the position of the Lafayette citizens that the oil and gas industry, aided by Governor Hickenlooper and the State of Colorado, interferes with the fundamental rights described in, and protected by, the Charter Amendment, and guaranteed by the Colorado and United States Constitutions.

COCRN-MastheadFollowing the passage of the Lafayette Community Rights Amendment, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), sued the City of Lafayette, claiming that a State law — the Colorado Oil and Gas Act — trumps the people’s right to self-determination and to protect themselves from oil and gas activities impacting their local community. East Boulder County United, the local organization that wrote and successfully campaigned for the Lafayette Community Rights Charter Amendment, attempted to join COGA’s lawsuit. But, the court refused to allow East Boulder County United to participate because, it said, the group’s arguments about people’s fundamental rights would expand the scope of the case.

Long-time Lafayette resident, East Boulder County United member, and named plaintiff Ann Griffin stated: “I stand with the people of Lafayette who voiced their support for this charter amendment by an overwhelming majority. What is democracy without this voice? Our rights are inalienable, and not up for negotiation by any Governor, Congressman or corporation.”

Griffin worked on the campaign for the Charter Amendment’s enactment, and currently enjoys its provisions detailing her right to clean air and water, to self-determination, and to be free from chemical trespass. In a city that neighbors the thousands of oil and gas wells in Weld County, the Community Rights Charter Amendment stands between a massive industrialization of her community and the preservation of quality of life and public safety.

“This suit enforces Lafayette residents’ fundamental rights, which are being directly threatened by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association,” said the other named plaintiff Cliff Willmeng, who is also a Registered Nurse, Lafayette resident, and father of two. “We had to take action to protect this community, its families and property, and we will continue to assert our rights to health, safety and welfare. These fundamental rights are not subordinate to corporate privilege, and they are not the property of the Governor or the State of Colorado to either give away or to overrule.”

The new class action lawsuit comes on the heels of the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to give the green light to ballot initiative No. 75, the Colorado Community Rights Amendment, for signature gathering. According to initiative proponents, which include Colorado Community Rights Network and East Boulder County United, ballot initiative No. 75 will clarify that Colorado communities have the right to local self-government and the authority to protect people’s fundamental rights from corporate interference. Proponents are working to gather over 86,000 signatures to ensure the initiative’s placement on the November ballot.


From the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
First-of-its-kind lawsuit seeks to stop state and industry challenges to Lafayette Community Bill of Rights which bans fracking

Lafayette, CO — Today, residents of Lafayette filed a first-of-its-kind class action lawsuit against the State of Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. The lawsuit was filed to protect the rights of the people of Lafayette to self-governance, including their right to ban fracking.

In November 2013, residents of Lafayette overwhelmingly adopted a Home Rule Charter Amendment banning all new commercial extraction of natural gas and oil within the City limits. The 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, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association filed a lawsuit against the City of Lafayette to overturn the Community Bill of Rights. The association is contending that the community does not have the legal authority to protect itself from fracking, and that corporate members of the association have the constitutional right to frack.

In filing the class action lawsuit, the residents of Lafayette are arguing that the Colorado Oil and Gas Act, and the industry’s enforcement of the Act, violate the constitutional right of residents of the community to local self-government.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted Lafayette residents to draft the Community Bill of Rights. CELDF is providing its support and expertise to the residents of Lafayette with the filing of the class action lawsuit.
Regarding today’s action, CELDF Executive Director, Thomas Linzey, Esq., stated: “This class action lawsuit is merely the first of many by people across the United States whose constitutional rights to govern their own communities 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, their state government, and their own municipal government.”

Through grassroots organizing and public interest law, CELDF works with communities across the country to establish 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, and water privatization, and eliminate corporate rights when they violate community and nature’s rights. This includes assisting the first communities in the U.S. to establish Rights of Nature in law, as well as the first communities to eliminate corporate constitutional rights.


Vote YES
Community Rights Initiative #75

We need your help collecting 125,000 signatures
In order to circulate the Initiative #75 Petition, you must be trained

Training Schedule

  • Thursday, June 12, 5:30-7:00PM, Carnegie Room, Penrose Library, Colorado Springs
  • Tuesday, June 17, 6:00-7:30PM, Ruth Holley Library Meeting Room, 685 N Murray Blvd, Colorado Springs
  • Webinar trainings to be announced at Colorado Community Rights Network

Email: or, with your preferred dates and times.

The ballot title and submission clause as designated and fixed by the State Title Board is as follows:

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a right to local self-government, and, in connection therewith, declaring that the people have an inherent right to local self-government in counties and municipalities, including the power to enact laws to establish and protect fundamental rights of individuals, communities, and nature and the power to define or eliminate the rights and powers of corporations or business entities to prevent them from interfering with those fundamental rights; and declaring that such local laws are not subject to preemption by any federal, state, or international laws.


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