The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Town of Milliken v. Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas LP on Thursday, May 9, 2013.
Oil and Gas Well Safety and Security Inspection Fees—CRS § 34-60-106(15).
The Town of Milliken (Town) appealed the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Onshore LP (Kerr-McGee). The judgment was affirmed.
In 1983, the Town enacted a series of ordinances that imposed fees on oil and gas wells within its boundaries. In 1996, the General Assembly amended existing state oil and gas law by enacting House Bill 96-1045. As relevant here, the new legislation, codified in part at CRS § 34-60-106(15), states:
No local government may charge a tax or fee to conduct inspections or monitoring of oil and gas operations with regard to matters that are subject to rule, regulation, order, or permit condition administered by the [Oil and Gas Conservation] [C]ommission. Nothing in this subsection (15) shall affect the ability of a local government to charge a reasonable and nondiscriminatory fee for inspection and monitoring for road damage and compliance with local fire codes, land use permit conditions, and local building codes.
In 2003, the Town enacted another ordinance concerning oil and gas wells that authorized the Town to inspect wells, equipment, and structures to determine compliance with the land use code, the Town fire code, the Town building code, and all other Town health or safety standards. The Town imposed an annual $400 inspection fee for each well within its boundaries that had not been plugged or abandoned. It was undisputed that the Town has never conducted the inspections described. In 2008, the Town enacted an ordinance imposing an annual $400 security inspection fee on each active oil and gas well within its boundaries. The fee was intended to offset the costs incurred by the Town’s police department for additional security checks that the well sites require. It was undisputed that the Town’s police conducted such checks on a regular basis before 2003. In 2010, the Town repealed and replaced the portion of the land use code containing both of the above provisions and replaced it with a provision authorizing inspections of wells and an annual $400 security fee on active oil and gas wells within the Town’s boundaries.
In 2010, the Town sued Kerr-McGee and others seeking to collect the security fees from 2003 onward. Kerr-McGee moved for summary judgment, which was granted in its favor. The district court held that the Town lacked the statutory authority to impose the fees. The Town appealed.
The Court or Appeals found it patently clear that oil and gas well safety and security are matters subject to rule, regulation, order, or permit condition administered by the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Thus, the Town’s fees under all of the ordinances above are clearly prohibited. The summary judgment was affirmed.
Summary and full case available here.