Hickenlooper finds political cover from AG Coffman on Martinez ruling

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman at the Rocky Mountain Energy Summit 2015 in Denver on 8/26, thanked organizer for inviting her to speak at the event saying, “We are in this together… You in the boardrooms and oilfields… Me in the courtrooms.” [Source: The Colorado Attorney General’s Office Facebook page]

Hickenlooper orders halt to fight over court oil-gas ruling but AG Coffman moves ahead
AG Cynthia Coffman says Martinez case profoundly changes oil and gas regulation

Late Wednesday, Governor John Hicklenlooper sent an order to the Deputy Attorney General Laura Chartrand instructing state attorneys not to proceed with an appeal of the Martinez ruling. But Attorney General Cynthia Coffman filed the appeal by this morning’s deadline on behalf of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.

In an email to the Denver Post today Coffman wrote:

“My office will continue to move forward with the case by seeking Supreme Court review. I understand that sentiment runs high surrounding oil and gas development in our state, even more so in the wake of the tragic house explosion that claimed two lives. This appeal is not intended to be a statement on complex energy policy issues. Rather it is a legal challenge to a court decision that stands to have a profound effect on regulation and administrative decision-making by government entities.”

The Martinez case originated with a 2013 lawsuit by lead plaintiff Xiuhtezcatl [shoe-tez-caht] Martinez, and teen members of Earth Guardians who had petitioned the COGCC to halt new permits for drilling in Colorado, “unless the best available science demonstrates, and an independent third party organization confirms, that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife, and land resources, does not adversely impact human health and does not contribute to climate change.”

When the nine commissioners declined to hear their petition the teens took their case to court. Denver’s District Court sided with the COGCC and the teens appealed again. On March 23, the Appeals Court overturned the lower court’s decision and ruled that protecting public health and the environment is “a condition that must be fulfilled” by the state before oil and gas drilling can be done. The judges acknowledged the COGCC must balance industry interests with protection of public health, safety and welfare as a prerequisite of allowing development.

On May 1, the COGCC vote unanimously to seek an appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court. Over 1,500 Colorado citizens, more than a dozen Democratic legislators, municipal and county governments across the Front Range, plus Conservation Colorado and EarthJustice urged the Governor with letters, emails and phone calls not to appeal the Martinez ruling.

Backed into a corner by the massive public outcry, especially from his own party, it looks like Governor Hickenlooper, a democrat, found political cover from AG Coffman, a republican, when she took filed the appeal this morning in defiance of his order.  Click here to view Martinez – COGCC appeal petition.

On August 26, 2015, AG Coffman was a guest speaker at the Rocky Mountain Energy Summit in Denver, (see photo above) and showed us who she works for when she said, “We are in this together … You in the boardrooms and oilfields … Me in the courtrooms.”

Colorado’s governor said he didn’t want to appeal a controversial oil-and-gas ruling
The attorney general did it anyway

… “The buck stops with Governor Hickenlooper because he can still keep this case from moving forward,” said Mike Freeman, staff attorney at Earthjustice. “The Attorney General can’t bring a Supreme Court appeal on behalf of the COGCC without that agency’s consent. If the Governor is serious about protection of public health, safety, and the environment, he needs to direct his COGCC to immediately drop the agency’s challenge to the Martinez decision.”

Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman Jaque Montgomery told The Colorado Independent: “There’s just a difference of opinion on who has the authority to appeal. We’re not going to challenge her decision” …

Evidently Hickenlooper works for Coffman now …

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman at the Denver Rustlers lunch in 2013. [Photo by Lynn Bartels, The Denver Post]

 

Governor, Coffman at odds on oil, gas appeal

… Hickenlooper’s office said in Thursday’s statement, “While we understand and respect the commission’s desire for further clarity from the Supreme Court, we believe the court of appeals’ decision does not represent a significant departure from the commission’s current approach. The commission already elevates public health and environmental concerns when considering regulating oil and gas operations.”

But in the filing asking the Supreme Court to consider the case, Coffman’s office wrote that the appeals court found that the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Act, “rather than balancing competing public policies … prioritizes one policy at the expense of others” …

… Seventeen-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a prepared statement, “Even our Governor who has been one of fracking’s biggest cheerleaders opposes this appeal. Maybe he can now see that fracking is increasingly deadly, and that the state is not doing enough to protect its citizens. So why does the COGCC continue to resist efforts to protect public health? What we need now is for the people, businesses and leaders of Colorado to stand with us and Governor Hickenlooper in opposing this appeal” …

 

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