Colorado Officials Ask Governor to Side with Kids’ Suit to Protect Health and Safety

Members of the youth environmental group Earth Guardians pose outside of the Ralph Carr Building where the Colorado Court of Appeals heard their case challenging a District Court's decision that sided with the COGCC in dismissing a lack of health and safety complaint brought by the youth. (photo: The Nation Report)

Members of the youth environmental group Earth Guardians pose outside of the Ralph Carr Building where the Colorado Court of Appeals heard their case on February 21 challenging a District Court’s decision that sided with the COGCC in dismissing a lack of health and safety complaint brought by the youth. (photo: The Nation Report)

“We hope that the Governor will listen to the people and push for policy solutions that put communities and people first.”

A letter to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed by 31 city and county officials asks the governor to decline to involve himself in possible further litigation brought by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC) in fighting a lawsuit brought by area youth in Martinez v. COGCC.  The letter was sent to the governor on May 15, 2017.

“We respectfully urge you to override the COGCC vote and decline to file a petition for certiorari review of Martinez.  We further ask that , if the Court grants certiorari on the petition of industry, that you decline to further participate in the litigation  Please show the victims of the Firestone tragedy and the people of this state that you care about their safety and well-being.”  A writ of certiorari asks a superior court to review the proceedings and record of a lower court.

The “Firestone tragedy” referred to the April 17, 2017 explosion caused by an abandoned natural gas pipeline that leaked which killed and injured those in their home.

Martinez v. COGCC was heard in February by the Colorado Court of Appeals.  The suit brought by Colorado youth seeks to hold the COGCC more accountable for public safety.  The legislatively established group has been accused with siding with the oil and gas industry interests in the past and neglecting public safety.

On March 23, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the COGCC under the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act “mandates that the development of oil and gas in Colorado be regulated subject to the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.”

The COGCC later suggested that it would appeal the March 23 decision by the Court of Appeals to the Colorado Supreme Court.  Although the April 17 explosion incident raised doubts about the community support that such a move would receive, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) voted unanimously to appeal the Martinez ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court on May 1.

According to a press release, the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans (LOGIC), three letters to the governor asking him not to appeal the Martinez v COGCC case.  The letters were signed by 1,500 Coloradans, 39 local elected officials and community leaders, and 13 state legislators.

“Coloradans have been asking for a conversation on oil and gas that puts their health, safety, and quality of life first. The Martinez ruling is directing the state to do just that, and we hope that the Governor will listen to the people and push to for policy solutions that put communities and people first,” said Sara Loflin, LOGIC’s executive director.  Recent accidents and the tragedy in Firestone prompted LOGIC, a group that works with Coloradans living with current and proposed oil and gas development near their neighborhoods, to initiate the letters. “Coloradans deserve to have a voice when it comes to oil and gas development in neighborhoods. Coloradans deserve assurances that the safety of our homes, our schools, our playgrounds, and our health will be the priority when if comes to oil and gas development,” said Stacy Lambright of Thornton.

“Broomfield is facing an unprecedented number of proposed oil and gas wells next to our homes, drinking water reservoirs, playgrounds and schools. It is imperative that people’s safety is ensured, when considering oil and gas proposals. We are asking the governor to let the Martinez case stand, and lead the way toward making policy changes that ensure public safety is the state’s highest priority,” said Broomfield City Council Member Kevin Kreeger.

The City of Broomfield is currently reviewing its oil and gas regulations in light of a 139-well proposal. “Broomfield has been working diligently on maximizing safety and minimizing impacts of big industry. It’s important we all come to the same table and discuss with equity health and safety of those living close to the area being developed and those working on site as well as our economic development. When we come together we can avoid polarization and work in the middle where most can agree,” said Broomfield Councilwoman Sharon Tessier.

During the 2017 Colorado State Legislative session, even minor attempts to bring about changes to the Oil and Gas Act were defeated – largely along partisan lines. “Governor Hickenlooper and the COGCC say public safety is their highest concern. Allowing the Martinez decision to stand is one important step in showing that commitment,” said State Representative Mike Foote (D, Lafayette). Foote sponsored three bills that were defeated during the 2017 legislative session: one that would have required oil and gas facilities be set back 1,000 feet from school property lines, a bill to bring more transparency and higher consent levels to mineral owners facing Forced Pooling, and legislation to create a comprehensive map of oil and gas pipelines in Colorado. “Coloradans are facing the impacts of oil and gas development from Durango to Windsor. They deserve to have their health and safety come first. They deserve to have input when it comes to Colorado’s oil and gas policies that effect their neighborhoods and communities. It is time for our leaders to step up and work toward balanced policies that put people’s lives first,” concluded Loflin.

Signed by:

  • Board of Boulder County Commissioners
  • Longmont City Council
  • Eva Henry, Adams County Commissioner
  • Suzanne Jones, Boulder Mayor
  • Matt Appelbaum, Boulder City Council
  • Aaron Brockett, Boulder City Council
  • Lisa Morzel, Boulder City Council
  • Sam Weaver, Boulder City Council
  • Mary Young, Boulder City Council
  • Stan Jezierski, Broomfield City Council
  • Kevin Kreeger, Broomfield City Council
  • Sharon Tessier, Broomfield City Council
  • Steven Douglas, Commerce City City Council
  • Tina Harris, Erie Mayor
  • Jennifer Carroll, Erie Trustee
  • Geoff Deakin, Erie Trustee
  • Mark Gruber, Erie Trustee
  • Bob Overbeck, Fort Collins City Council
  • Christine Berg, Lafayette Mayor
  • Chelsea Behanna, Lafayette City Council
  • Merrily Mazza, Lafayette City Council
  • Gustavo Reyna, Lafayette City Council
  • Gwen Lachelt, LaPlata County Commission
  • Bob Muckle, Louisville Mayor
  • Eric Montoya, Thornton Mayor Pro Tem
  • Sam Nyzam, Thornton City Council
  • Josh Zygielbaum, Thornton City Council
  • Emma Pinter, Westminster City Council
  • Su Ryden, Fmr. State Representative
  • Claudine Schneider, Fmr. Member of Congress
  • Pat Waak, Fmr. Democratic Party Chair
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