EARTH GUARDIANS Seek to Protect Human Health in Colorado, etc.

by Duane Nichols on January 17, 2019

Earth Guardians are determined to reduce risks to public health

Colorado’s Top Court Sides Against Youth in Major Anti-Fracking Case

From an Article by Lorraine Chow,, January 15, 2019

PHOTO: Emma Bray (19) of Denver, a plaintiff on the youth-led climate lawsuit, Martinez v. COGCC.

Colorado’s oil and gas industry breathed a sigh of relief on Monday after the state’s highest court overturned a lower court decision that said state regulators must consider public health and the environment in permitting oil and gas production.

The unanimous ruling was a disappointment for the teenage plaintiffs, including high-profile climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, who led the closely watched lawsuit against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

“To know that the judges in the highest court of my state believe that the interests of the oil and gas industry come before the public health, safety and welfare of my fellow Coloradans is shameful,” the 18-year-old from Boulder said in a press release.

“But,” Martinez added, “I want you all to know that this fight for climate justice is far from over. My fellow plaintiffs, youth around the world, and I will continue to stand up for our right to a healthy future.”

The lawsuit—backed by Our Children’s Trust, the same non-profit supporting the young plaintiffs in the landmark federal lawsuit Juliana v. United States — was originally filed in November 2013 on behalf of seven young Coloradans who are all members of the Boulder-based youth group Earth Guardians.

They demanded that the COGCC refuse oil and gas development permits “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.”

Ultimately, as the Colorado Sun noted, the activists were hoping to stamp out Colorado’s oil and gas activists and prompt a “state-wide ban on fracking,” as then-13-year-old Martinez explained.

Instead, Justice Richard Gabriel ruled Monday that current state law requires regulators to balance oil and gas development with protecting public health, the environment and wildlife.

The decision states: “[T]he pertinent provisions make clear that the Commission is required (1) to foster the development of oil and gas resources, protecting and enforcing the rights of owners and producers, and (2) in doing so, to prevent and mitigate significant adverse environmental impacts to the extent necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare, but only after taking into consideration cost-effectiveness and technical feasibility.”

Basically, the ruling upholds the “Colorado way of doing business,” Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said as quoted by The Denver Post. He added that under state law, the COGCC’s regulations for the oil and natural gas industry are the most extensive and stringent in the country.

For fracking opponents, it’s the law itself that’s the problem. Julia Olson, the executive director of Our Children’s Trust and co-counsel for youth plaintiffs, stated that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Act makes it clear that the rule should be “amended or set aside as unconstitutional” as it allows “unfettered discretion to promote Colorado’s dangerous and pervasive oil and gas development at the expense of the people.”

Undeterred by the ruling, State House Speaker KC Becker said she will work to change Colorado law so the fossil fuel industry will do more to protect public health and the environment, as reported by Colorado Public Radio. “It puts the decision back into the hands of lawmakers to take action and we are committed to addressing this concern this legislative session,” Becker also tweeted.

In an online statement, new Gov. Jared Polis — who wants to transition Colorado to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 — said he was “disappointed” by the court’s ruling. He noted, “it only highlights the need to work with the Legislature and the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission to more safely develop our state’s natural resources and protect our citizens from harm.”

The plaintiffs also remain optimistic. “The last couple years have proven that youth have the opportunity to be heard in the courts and the community. Not a single person, company or corporation can silence the young generation’s voices,” Emma Bray, 19-year-old plaintiff from Denver, said in a press release. “We will continue the fight for our Earth and our future, despite the mountains we need to climb and the setbacks that we will overcome. Regardless of the court’s decision in our case, the fight will continue.”


SEE ALSO: W.Va. Supreme Court To Hear Natural Gas Nuisance Case | West Virginia Public Broadcasting, January 14, 2019


SEE ALSO: LAW: Pipeline wars arrive at U.S. Supreme Court. What’s next? — E & E News — January 16, 2019


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Associated Press January 26, 2019 at 11:32 pm

Colorado court asked to reconsider ruling in oil-gas case

By The Associated Press, January 25, 2019

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Supreme Court has been asked to reconsider its decision in an oil and gas lawsuit because of comments by a lower court judge who had a role in the case.

The request filed Thursday asks the court to revisit its Jan. 14 ruling that regulators don’t have to make health and environmental protection their top priority in setting oil and gas rules.

The request said the ruling relied in part on an opinion written by a lower court judge, Laurie Booras. Booras later resigned after a disciplinary panel found she used ethnic slurs and demeaning nicknames for a Hispanic judge and a Native American woman.

Some of the plaintiffs in the oil and gas case are Hispanic and Native American. In their request for the Supreme Court to reconsider, they said Booras may not have treated them fairly.


Denver Post March 31, 2019 at 12:15 am

Gov. Polis withdraws request to EPA for more time to bring Colorado into compliance with federal air-quality standards: “We are moving forward to make our air cleaner now,” governor says …

From Kieran Nicholson, Denver Post, March 29, 2019

A brown cloud hung over Denver on March 7, 2019, due to a temperature inversion.
Colorado is withdrawing a requested extension before the Environmental Protection Agency that had been aimed at giving the state additional time to come into compliance with federal health-based air standards.

Extending the attainment date for the 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard is an unhealthy, counterintuitive way to comply with air standards, Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement released Friday.

“There’s too much smog in our air, and instead of hiding behind bureaucracy and paperwork that delay action, we are moving forward to make our air cleaner now,” Polis said.

Colorado is developing zero-emissions vehicle standards, reforming oil and gas laws to prioritize public health and safety, and advancing toward 100 percent renewable energy in efforts to clean the air, rather than rely on extensions that would allow more polluted air to be acceptable, the governor said.

In a withdrawal request letter dated Tuesday to Doug Benevento, regional EPA administrator, Polis said Colorado intends to move forward quickly to clean the air and protect the public health.

RELATED: “Colorado needs to lead”: New climate change bill seeks to cut carbon emissions

“We wish to express our appreciation to the EPA for the time and effort involved in processing Colorado’s request, and for proposing to approve it,” Polis said in the letter. “But given the vital importance of coming into compliance… we believe that the interests of our citizens are best served by moving aggressively forward and without delay in our efforts to reduce ground-level ozone concentrations” in the Denver area and along the northern Front Range.

The move follows a decision by Polis earlier this month not to pursue a different exemption based on pollution that has wafted over Colorado from Asia

This May, Colorado is required to submit current air-monitoring data to federal regulators.

Last year, there were 55 days when Coloradans were warned that outdoor exercise could be unhealthy because of high ground-level ozone, Polis said. “That’s more than half the summer, which is unacceptable. There’s more we can do to protect our air quality and health, and we should do it sooner not later.”

Colorado Front Range air quality in recent years has worsened, with ozone readings exceeding the 2008 federal health standard of 75 parts per billion. The current standard, set in 2015, is 70 ppb. Air sampling stations at four sites — at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory near Golden, at Chatfield State Park, west of Fort Collins and near Rocky Flats — last year showed ozone exceeding 75 ppb. Even in Rocky Mountain National Park, ozone levels have hit the 70 ppb federal limit.

If the EPA deems Colorado a “serious” air-quality violator following the state’s May submission, it will trigger the updating of about 600 air pollution permits that the state health department’s air pollution regulators have issued to energy companies in Colorado. Reworked air pollution permits are apt to get stricter under the governor’s act-now plan.

“The governor has challenged us to move quicker, and we are up for the task,” said Jill Ryan, executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment, in Friday’s news release. “Clean air can’t wait.”

The state health department will work with partners to find strategies to reduce ozone in Denver and along the Front Range, Ryan said, and, in doing, so federal air quality requirements will be met.

Colorado, which has been out of EPA compliance since 2012, expects to attain compliance by 2021, said Garry Kaufman, director of the air pollution control division of the state health department.


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