From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):
The case involves a challenge by Southwest Colorado ranchers and several other landowners to the water rules for gas and oil wells that the state engineer adopted early this year. Sarah Klahn, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said the rules should be overturned because many affected landowners never received legal notice that the state was about to pass rules that affect their groundwater. “Industry wants to say, here are the rules. We’re done. We win,” Klahn said in a hearing Friday. “It’s only fair that the landowners have the same opportunity to participate in this. We think the only way that’s going to happen is if it’s in Durango.”
If the case had gone to Durango, it would have been heard by Judge Gregory Lyman, who ruled against gas companies in the water rights case that set these events in motion. But lawyers for the state engineer’s office and gas companies argued that the case should be heard in Greeley, which is much closer to Denver – the seat of government and headquarters for many gas companies. “This case should be heard here, where the agency is located,” said First Assistant Attorney General John Cyran. “It is a matter of statewide importance.”[…]
The first lawsuit challenges the legal procedure the state engineer used to pass the rules. It was moved to Greeley on Friday.
The second lawsuit challenges the map the engineer adopted for Southwest Colorado to show where the industry has to take extra steps to replace the water it uses. Lawyers on both sides agreed Friday to put that lawsuit on hold until the first one is decided.
Separately, gas companies have filed 11 different applications for water rights in Durango’s water court. As part of those cases, the industry sent out notices by mail to hundreds of landowners earlier this year. Several landowners – as well as the city of Durango, the U.S. Forest Service and others – filed statements of opposition. Lyman will decide later whether to grant the water rights.