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Colorado Court of Appeals Upholds Warrantless Inspections at Oil and Gas Sites

On March 22, 2018, the Colorado Court of Appeals held that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s authority to undertake unannounced, warrantless inspections (i.e., administrative searches) at oil and gas sites does NOT violate the U.S. or Colorado constitutions.In a case brought by Maralex Resources, the court held that such warrantless searches by the COGCC at oil and gas sites fall within the administrative search exception to the otherwise applicable warrant requirement for a government agency to conduct a “search” of private property.  The Court also held that such inspections do NOT violate the constitutional rights of surface owners.  As a result of the Court’s ruling, Colorado property owners with oil and gas sites cannot deny access to the COGCC performing an agency inspection on the basis that an administrative search warrant is compulsory before entry.

See Maralex Res., Inc. v. Colo. Oil & Gas Conservation Comm’n, 2018COA40 No. 17CA0051.

This post was drafted by John Watson, an attorney in the Denver, CO office of Spencer Fane LLP. For more information, visit spencerfane.com.