MOYE WHITE ATTORNEY INSTRUMENTAL IN COLORADO SUPREME COURT DECISION
Summit County Ban Set Aside
(Denver, Colo., January 12, 2009) - The Colorado Supreme Court today set aside a preemptive ban on modern mining technologies which the Summit County Board of Commissioners had adopted in 2004.
The Colorado Mining Association (CMA) applauded the Court’s decision and thanked Moye White attorney, Paul Seby, for acting as its counsel since the case began and successfully concluding the matter. Together with John Kellogg, Seby chairs the firm’s renowned energy and natural resources practice group.
“The Supreme Court decision was both a victory for our client, the environment and Colorado’s $3 billion mining industry,” said Seby. “The decision allows responsible economic development in our state, through modern mining and natural resource development, while at the same time protecting the environment.” Colorado’s mining industry currently employs more than 5,000 people, who are among the highest paid industrial workers in the state.
The Supreme Court ruled that counties, which are political subdivisions of the state, may not impose their own reclamation standards or ban the use of chemical reagents in mining specifically authorized and regulated by Colorado’s Mined Land Reclamation Act. CMA President Stuart A. Sanderson enthusiastically endorsed the ruling. “The mining industry is gratified that Colorado’s highest Court has upheld uniform state standards for the protection of the environment over an ill conceived prohibition,” he said. “The prohibition would have discouraged mining and weakened environmental protections.”
CMA had previously successfully challenged the regulation, which had banned the use of chemical reagents essential to the process of extracting minerals, before the Colorado District Court, but a divided Court of Appeals reinstated the ban in 2007.
The Summit County prohibition would have allowed counties to stop virtually any mineral or other business development within their borders. Sanderson states that this would have replaced the current objective, science-based decision making process for the regulation of mining with one based solely on local, subjective political judgment. “This would have negatively impacted the environment as well as local communities that depend on the revenues and jobs that mining provides,” he added. According to CMA, the mining industry has consistently supported strong state regulatory programs for both the Division of Reclamation Mining & Safety and the Colorado Department of Health & Environment, while continuing to support local land use powers.
Sanderson noted that CMA’s challenge to the Summit County land use resolution was a narrow one that respected county authority but objected to the extreme ban imposed.
The decision leaves no gap in regulation requiring further legislative action. The 66th General Assembly rejected a bill that would have granted local governments the authority to impose political bans on mining. Even the sponsors of that legislation conceded that county land use powers are adequate under existing laws and that the Mined Land Reclamation Act provisions (upgraded substantially in 1993) provide sufficient environmental protection.
The Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry filed a brief in support of CMA’s petition, citing the need for reasonable governmental regulation of business and industry, as did the state of Colorado, which cited the importance of state regulation of mining.
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