COGA, API council jointly sue City of Thornton over new regulations

The Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) and the American Petroleum Institute’s Colorado Petroleum Council (CPC) jointly sued the City of Thornton on Oct. 10 over new regulations that the trade associations said could hurt jobs, raise energy costs to Colorado consumers, and hurt the state’s economy.

The Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) and the American Petroleum Institute’s Colorado Petroleum Council (CPC) jointly sued the City of Thornton on Oct. 10 over new regulations that the trade associations said could hurt jobs, raise energy costs to Colorado consumers, and hurt the state’s economy.

“Thornton’s city council passed illegal energy regulations in August after an extremely limited stakeholder process. COGA and other willing contributors were given little to no opportunity to offer feedback on the proposed rules,” Pres. Dan Haley said after the action was filed in Adams County District Court in Brighton.

“Still, to avoid litigation, we submitted multiple letters articulating serious legal concerns with Thornton’s proposed regulations, particularly regarding operational preemption. Those concerns were ignored, making it necessary to challenge Thornton’s regulations in court,” he said.

“Strong environmental stewardship has produced comprehensive and effective natural gas and oil regulations here in Colorado,” CPC Executive Director Tracee Bentley said separately. “One of the major concerns we have with the city’s new regulations is that they overlook the latest scientific data and the current statewide oversight of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.”

A patchwork of conflicting city regulations is the wrong path for consumers and disregards the stakeholder process for which Colorado is so well known, Bentley said.

The city last enacted oil and gas regulations in 2011 and has since grown more urban, which the Colorado General Assembly has amended the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act (COGCA) and the COGCC has promulgated new rules “that continue to recognize local government authority over land use impacts of oil and gas development,” according to the city ordinance.

Preapplication conference

The 48 pages of regulations, which Thornton’s city council adopted on Aug. 22, require the well operator to meet with the city manager to discuss the proposed operation before applying for a permit or beginning negotiations for an agreement.

The operator also is required to hold at least one neighborhood meeting “to inform the residents and property owners of the surrounding neighborhood(s) of the details of a proposed oil and gas operation, and to receive public comment and encourage dialogue at an early time in the review process.”

The regulations say that Thornton’s city manager may waive one or more of the application materials if they do not apply because of the oil and gas operation or location. The city manager also can request additional information. An applicant may submit information previously submitted to the COGCC.

COGA and CPC’s lawsuit says that Thornton’s regulations regarding setbacks, waiver, flowlines, general liability insurance coverage, surface disturbance, and natural gas gathering lines conflict with the COGCA “because they forbid what state law authorizes and materially impede the state’s interest in the uniform regulation of oil and gas operations.”

Active drilling along Colorado’s Front Range has gone on for more than a century in one of the most prolific, and most regulated, natural resource basins in US, Haley said.

“As Colorado communities grow and expand, it is important to keep in mind where our natural resources exist, the value development provides our economy and our national security, and the respect we must have for individual property rights on the surface and below,” he said. “Working together with these factors in mind would improve the likelihood for broad stakeholder success, and limit the likelihood for expensive litigation funded on the backs of taxpayers.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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