Numerous organizations and individuals have filed an amicus brief in Boulder resident Xiuhtezcatl Martinez‘s case against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, including the recently formed, Lafayette-based anti-fracking group .
Parties in the brief allege that COGCC currently has inadequate regulation of oil and gas development that endangers public health, safety and welfare in violation of a state law that grants the commission power to regulate oil and gas development in a way that protects the public, according to court records.
The brief goes on to say that the current regulation runs contrary to “environmental justice” in that children, the poor and people of color are inordinately affected by oil and gas development, records show.
The brief also alleges that oil and gas companies control public meetings in a way that doesn‘t allow the public to participate in a meaningful way, including barring some members of the public or keeping tight controls on what questions are asked in public forums.
Other public entities, such as the Colorado Legislature, often give insufficient notice of meetings and hearings, which can make it hard for residents to attend — particularly those with small children — attorneys argue in the brief.
“Oil and gas companies have all the power in the state right now,” said TAND founding member Kate Christensen.
“The people whose lives they impact the most have no say in it,” Christensen said. “Kids don‘t have a say in where they live or go to school and they are so vulnerable to the health impacts.”
A COGCC spokesman declined to comment late Friday.
Seth Whitehead, of Energy in Depth — a campaign formed by the oil and gas industry trade group Independent Petroleum Association of America — said in an email that lawsuits such as the one filed by Martinez are part of a “national litigation campaign designed to shut down domestic energy production.”
“That‘s too bad,” he said. “Colorado has a strong history of working together to promote responsible energy development that keeps energy affordable, creates thousands of jobs all while improving the environment.”
The when Martinez, a Boulder resident and climate activist, and a group of other teenagers asked that COGCC not issue new permits unless the best science demonstrates and a third party confirms that drilling can occur in a way that doesn‘t adversely impact the environment, human health or contribute to climate change.
In May 2014, the commission denied Martinez‘s request, and the group appealed in Denver District Court. The American Petroleum Institute and the Colorado Petroleum Association joined COGCC in the case.
The district court in February 2016 held up the COGCC ruling, but the Colorado Court of Appeals sided with the teens. The ruling did not require the state to adopt the proposal, but it meant that the commission illegally rejected it. The case is now before the Colorado Supreme Court.