Quantcast

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

Popular
Emma Bray of Denver, a plaintiff on the youth-led climate lawsuit, Martinez v. COGCC. @youthvgov / Twitter

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 activities 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 the 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."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

David Gilmour performs at Anfiteatro Scavi di Pomei on July 7, 2016 in Pompei, Italy. Francesco Prandoni / Redferns / Getty Images

David Gilmour, guitarist, singer and songwriter in the rock band Pink Floyd, set a record last week when he auctioned off 126 guitars and raised $21.5 million for ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law group dedicated to fighting the global climate crisis, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaks during a forum April 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

The Trump administration ratcheted up its open hostility to climate science in a move that may hide essential information from the nation's farmers.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
Protestors and police stand on ether side of railway tracks. dpa / picture-alliance

Police have cleared 250 climate activists who stayed overnight at the Garzweiler brown coal mine in western Germany, officials said Sunday.

Read More Show Less
Cecilie_Arcurs / E+ / Getty Images

By Megan Jones and Jennifer Solomon

The #MeToo movement has caused profound shake-ups at organizations across the U.S. in the last two years. So far, however, it has left many unresolved questions about how workplaces can be more inclusive and equitable for women and other diverse groups.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Cigarette butts are the most-littered item found at beach clean ups. John R. Platt

By Tara Lohan

By now it's no secret that plastic waste in our oceans is a global epidemic. When some of it washes ashore — plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers — we get a stark reminder. And lately one part of this problem has been most glaring to volunteers who comb beaches picking up trash: cigarette butts.

Read More Show Less

Andrea Rodgers, second from the right, takes notes during a hearing in the Juliana v. U.S. case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon on June 4. Colleague Elizabeth Brown sits to her left, while colleague Julia Olson sits on her right, with co-council Philip Gregory on Julia's right. Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust

By Fran Korten

On June 4, Andrea Rodgers was in the front row of attorneys sitting before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court. The court session, held in Portland, Oregon, was to determine whether the climate change lawsuit (Juliana v. United States) brought by 21 young plaintiffs should be dismissed, as requested by the U.S. government, or go on to trial.

Read More Show Less
Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday. SCOOTERCASTER / YouTube screenshot

Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday as they demanded the paper improve its coverage of the climate crisis, Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less