Thornton pipeline rules overturned

Effort to narrow setbacks fails legal test

Posted 4/30/18

Less than a year after they were adopted, a state court has overturned much of Thornton’s controversial buffer and natural gas pipeline safety rules. District Court Judge Edward C. Moss ruled April …

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Thornton pipeline rules overturned

Effort to narrow setbacks fails legal test

Posted

Less than a year after they were adopted, a state court has overturned much of Thornton’s controversial buffer and natural gas pipeline safety rules.

District Court Judge Edward C. Moss ruled April 24 that Thornton’s requirement that all well pads and production facilities be at least 750 feet from existing or proposed buildings was pre-empted by state rules that allow 600 foot setbacks.

He left provisions standing that require companies to consolidate wells and minimize disturbances to the surface, however.

In an email, Todd Barnes, communication director for the city, said city officials would not comment on the decision. Councilors are scheduled to discuss it at an upcoming closed door executive session, however.

Thornton’s rules were aimed at companies hoping to drill within the city limits after an abandoned line was blamed for a 2017 explosion in Firestone that killed two and injured Mountain Range High School teacher Erin Martinez.

Thornton’s new rules would also require operators to keep insurance against property damage and personal injury of up to $5 million per occurrence. The commission’s rules set the limit at $1 million per occurrence.

The suit was filed in Adams County District Court by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute — a national oil industry trade association — in October.

The industry groups argued that the city’s tighter rules on drilling in city limits are invalid because only the state of Colorado has the authority to regulate natural gas, according to the federal Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act.

The suit also takes issue with the specific requirements of Thornton’s rules: greater distances from occupied buildings, requiring drillers to remove flow lines when they are finished with them, higher insurance requirements and other safety standards.

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