Colorado oil-gas regulators take rules dispute to state Supreme Court against governor's will

DENVER (AP) — Colorado's attorney general has asked the state Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling that said regulators could put more weight on public health and the environment when they draw up rules for oil and gas.

In documents filed Thursday, Attorney General Cynthia Cynthia Coffman says the lower court ruling essentially rewrites state law and contradicts previous Supreme Court rulings.

The Supreme Court didn't immediately indicate whether it would take the case.

Coffman filed the appeal at the request of state regulators but over the objections of Gov. John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper said regulators don't have the authority to appeal, and that the ruling wouldn't significantly change the way regulators work.

This is the statement Gov. Hickenlooper sent regarding Coffman’s decision:

“We notified the Attorney General that we did not want to pursue an appeal of the Martinez case. We believe that the statute governing the commission's powers does not include the authority to initiate an appeal in this case.  However, the Attorney General reached a different legal conclusion.  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.”

Coffman disagreed, saying regulators do have the authority to appeal, and that the Supreme Court should settle the issue.

Coffman offered a statement regarding her decision Thursday afternoon:

“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.

"My office will move forward with the case on behalf of our client, the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, and pursuant to the Attorney General's independent authority to defend Colorado law.  We will work to expeditiously obtain an outcome in this matter. Further details regarding the Martinez appeal can be found in my letter to Gov. Hickenlooper.”

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