Fact Check: Did a Colorado court leave people unprotected by ruling against Thornton’s buffer and pipeline rules?

Out of Gas


Bruce Finley

Media Publication:

The Denver Post

Originally Published On:

April 25, 2018


Out of Gas

Claim #1:Colorado court kills Thornton buffer and pipeline rules that are meant to protect people as oil and gas industry expands.”

Fact: The court simply upheld current and clear state law, ruling that local entities cannot impose stricter buffer and pipeline rules. The implication that people are not being protected by the court’s decision is false. Colorado’s oil and gas industry is one of the most regulated in the country, and the state already has regulations addressing these issues.  The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee is tasked with ensuring a “responsible, balanced” development, production and use of oil and gas in a manner consistent with the “protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.”  

Additionally, the statement that oil and gas is “expanding” into cities ignores the reality that Colorado’s population explosion is often moving people closer to industry operations. 

Rating: Out of gas.

Claim #2: Did the judge “interpret” the law?

Fact: No. The reporter wrote that the judge relied on a 2016 state Supreme Court ruling that "he interpreted as meaning municipalities cannot authorize what state law forbids or forbid what state law allows." The judge didn't interpret the law; he applied the law. The Colorado Supreme Court held that the state has the power to regulate oil and gas, and actions by local governments to regulate the industry are “invalid and unenforceable.”  In fact, the judge’s written decision specifically says that the Colorado Supreme Court’s “determination is binding on this district court.”

Rating: Out of gas.

Claim #3: The Colorado District Court judge decided local rules are illegal wherever they have “materially impeded” efficient fossil fuels development.

Fact: What the judge he actually said was: “Preemption focuses on whether enforcement of the local interest will ‘materially impede’ the state interest.” And the state’s interest, as noted above, weighs “responsible, balanced” development and the “protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.”  

Rating: Out of gas.