Colorado Supreme Court denies Gov. Hickenlooper’s request to weigh in on attorney general’s air-standards lawsuit

Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 3:01 PM

DENVER – The Colorado Supreme Court on Thursday denied a request by Gov. John Hickenlooper to weigh in on whether Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is within her authority to sue over federal carbon dioxide pollution standards.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, made the request in October after Coffman, a Republican, announced she would enter the state into a multi-state lawsuit seeking to block the new Environmental Protection Agency rule.

The rule – part of the Obama administration’s quest to slow climate change – calls for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 28 percent in Colorado and 32 percent nationally by 2030. The state is charged with developing a specific plan for Colorado.

The governor’s office said the multi-state lawsuit puts state offices in direct conflict with each other, while it also pointed to concerns with diminishing the governor’s attorney-client relationship with the attorney general.

In a news release, Coffman said, “The roles of the Governor and Attorney General are separate and distinct. The two executive officers must work independently to best serve all the citizens of Colorado.”

Hickenlooper supports the federal carbon rule.

Critics – largely Republicans and right-leaning groups – question whether the federal government has authority to “usurp” state control over power grids and emission standards, an argument that frames the crux of the multi-state lawsuit.

The court – in a one-page 5-2 ruling – denied Hickenlooper’s request for a review, pointing to a 2003 ruling concerning jurisdiction. The high court stated, “relief shall be granted only when no other adequate remedy ... is available.”

While the Supreme Court has discretion regarding the cases it hears, two requirements must be met: establishing “an extraordinary matter of public importance” and if “no adequate ‘conventional appellate remedies’ exist.”

For Hickenlooper’s request, the court ruled there is an “adequate alternative remedy.”

“The Supreme Court left undecided whether the attorney general ​can ​legally bring federal lawsuits on behalf of Colorado without the ​governor’s authority,” said Kathy Green, a Hickenlooper spokeswoman. “The court did not deny the importance of this issue nor did it uphold the legality of the attorney general’s actions.”