Colorado attorney general sues to block carbon-pollution standard

Friday, Oct. 23, 2015 1:49 PM

DENVER – Colorado’s Republican attorney general said Friday she has entered the state into a lawsuit that aims to block implementation of federal carbon-pollution standards.

Cynthia Coffman made the announcement after the Environmental Protection Agency published the final rule in the Federal Register, though details of the plan have been known since August.

Carbon-dioxide emissions must be reduced by 28 percent in Colorado and 32 percent nationally by 2030. The state is charged with developing a specific plan for Colorado.

Coffman’s announcement puts her at odds with Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who denounced the lawsuit in a statement.

“Clean air and protecting public health should be everyone’s top priority. Colorado’s interest is best served by an open, inclusive process to implement the Clean Power Plan. This lawsuit will create uncertainty for the state and undermine stakeholders’ ability to plan for and invest in cost-effective compliance strategies, something that the attorney general has been advising the state on,” Hickenlooper said. “Colorado has already made great progress in clean air and clean jobs, and worked extensively with the EPA to ensure we have the time and flexibility we need. ​We believe that Colorado can achieve the clean air goals set by the EPA, at little or no increased cost to our residents.”

It’s a bit of an odd situation considering Hickenlooper is a direct client of Coffman’s. But Coffman, who was elected last year, pointed out that she has independent authority to initiate legal action.

“Coloradans value the environment, and our state continues to be a national leader in establishing clean energy standards,” Coffman said in a statement. “We’ve proven again and again that good environmental policy can be developed and implemented successfully by Coloradans, and within the bounds of the law. This rule fits neither description.”

Colorado joins 23 other states in suing to block implementation. The crux of the case revolves around whether the federal government has authority to “usurp” state control over power grids and emission standards. The case was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

With publication of the rule Friday, a 90-day public comment period begins, which runs through Jan. 21. Additional public hearings are expected to be part of the comment period.

The EPA defended the rule Friday, stating that it is “grounded firmly in science and the law, and is fair, flexible and affordable.” Supporters of the plan point to health benefits and cost savings by reducing air pollution and curbing climate change. They add that the rule was crafted after extensive stakeholder meetings and public hearings.

“The Clean Power Plan has strong scientific and legal foundations, provides states with broad flexibilities to design and implement plans and is clearly within EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. “We are confident we will again prevail against these challenges and will be able to work with states to successfully implement these first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States.

Hickenlooper’s administration in September announced that Colorado would create the Colorado Climate Plan, which “demonstrates our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through EPA’s Clean Power Plan and Colorado’s own initiatives,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Environmental groups piled on Coffman, suggesting she is playing political games rather than considering the interests of Coloradans.

“Last time I checked, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman represented the interests of all Coloradans, not just a select few special interests,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “It is time for Coffman to shelve her political ambitions ... and put the needs of Coloradans first.”