Youth Win Fracking Lawsuit!

In a historic ruling yesterday, the Colorado Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court decision that denied teenagers the right to petition the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) for a rulemaking proceeding to cease approval of new oil and gas permits and drilling until it can prove no harm to human health and the environment.

The COGCC claimed the petition went against its mandate to balance oil and gas development with human health and environmental protection. The Court ruled that this was an incorrect interpretation! Instead of balancing oil and gas industry interests against the interests of public health and the environment, the Court determined that development must be regulated subject to the protection of human health and environment.

 

To be clear, the Court said that the protection of human health and the environment must be a condition that is satisfied, not a variable in a balancing act.

 

While the Court was reviewing the legislative history of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act and how the statute has evolved over the years, the Court stated that recent changes “reflect the [Colorado] General Assembly’s general movement away from unfettered oil and gas production and incorporation of public health, safety, and welfare as a check on that development.”

 

This is excellent news, but not the end of the journey. The rulemaking petition will be remanded back to the District Court and the Commission. The COGCC will likely appeal the decision. As these youth have been vigilant in asserting their rights, we need to continue working to ensure that COGCC takes action consistent with this ruling.

 

CHC signed on to the Amicus brief in this case and couldn’t be more pleased with the Court’s decision. Thank you to Earth Guardians and to Our Children’s Trust for bringing this lawsuit forward, and for championing the public trust doctrine around the country.
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