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Contacts: Anne Lee Foster: 757-870-5102, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Merlin: 720-965-0854, email@example.com
Trisha Garcia-Nelson, 337-532-0135, firstname.lastname@example.org
COGCC Moves to Appeal Standing in Bella Romero Court Decision
Attempt to Block Injured Children from the Courts Echoes Pre-SB-181 Attacks on Health & Safety
DENVER, COLORADO — Last week, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted 5-4 to file a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Colorado Supreme Court over the Court of Appeals decision on standing in Weld Air and Water v. COGCC, otherwise known as the Bella Romero lawsuit. The petition will challenge the Court of Appeals’ finding that the citizen groups representing local children and their families had a right to challenge in court the approval of a 24-well “mega” pad approximately 720 ft. from their school’s playground.
This site has been called “the most fracked school in America” and has become a poster child in the fight against neighborhood drilling in Colorado, being featured in the New York Times and on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
The Commission vote split along gender lines, with all five male Commissioners voting to ask the Court to overturn the Court of Appeals and allow the Commission to continue to act as a “gatekeeper” with final determination of who may or may not challenge its decisions.
During the debate of whether to challenge the Court of Appeals’ ruling, some Commissioners repeatedly cited the potential threat of “frivolous lawsuits.” One Commissioner suggested that if the groups had the right to challenge the COGCC in court then a hypothetical store owner in Kansas who sometimes sells potato chips to oil workers could sue the Commission for lost revenue for denying an application.
Attorney Kate Merlin said of the decision: “Kids’ safety isn’t the same as potato chip revenue. It’s outrageous that the COGCC is trying to return to the Supreme Court to smack school children over health and safety, again,” referencing the 2018 Martinez v. COGCC case. “The Court of Appeals decision on standing was clear and well supported. This is supposed to be a new Commission after SB-181 but they’re acting exactly as they always have. I’m extremely saddened and disappointed by this action.”
Mother of a Bella Romero student and member of a plaintiff group in the case, Patricia Garcia-Nelson said: “How dare the COGCC attempt to challenge an injured child’s right to the court process. Why is it every time the COGCC finds itself at the Supreme Court it’s over children trying to defend themselves? While on the campaign trail, Jared Polis said, ‘All Coloradans deserve to be safe, at home, at school, and at work.’ I call on the Governor to make good on this statement and instruct his administration to not to pursue the appeal and to stand up for the rights of all Coloradans to challenge corporate power through the courts. The vote by the commission he appointment signals to the people of Colorado that nothing has changed under the new law of SB-181 and we are still grossly disenfranchised against the interests of the oil and gas companies when it comes to state oversight.”
Access to the judicial system through courts of law is a fundamental constitutional right guaranteed by the First Amendment. “Standing” is the gatekeeper to those courts, requiring that plaintiffs show 1) injury in fact, 2) causation, and 3) redressability.
Anne Lee Foster, communication director for Colorado Rising said: “The COGCC, which is an unelected agency consisting of part-time members appointed by the Governor, is seeking to limit citizens’ access to the courts by creating its own rules on standing, limiting what qualifies as an “injury” to dramatically narrow the categories of people who qualify to sue it. If Commission rules on standing are allowed to deny Coloradans’ access to our courts the Commission can make itself virtually immune to any challenge to its life-or-death decisions over siting of these dangerous facilities.”
Colorado Rising is powering the grassroots movement to protect public health & safety from dangerous oil & gas operations.
To learn more, please go to www.corising.org