Editor’s note: A version of this story first appeared in The Colorado Statesman:
Environmentalists and pro fossil-fuel groups predictably reacted with equal parts elation and disgust Monday after Gov. John Hickenlooper told the Denver Post editorial board he will seek a Colorado Supreme Court opinion on the legality of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s decision to sue the EPA over its Clean Power Plan (CPP).
Coffman, a Republican, told The Colorado Statesman on Friday that it’s her job to preserve state control over its own energy infrastructure and protect Colorado consumers from federal overreach that she contends will result in higher energy prices and a less reliable electrical grid.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat, told The Statesman in an email statement on Friday that he opposes Coffman’s decision to join 23 other states in challenging the CPP, which requires power plants to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Coal-fired power plants will have to drastically reduce emissions by installing expensive scrubbers or converting altogether to cleaner fuel sources such as natural gas or renewables.
Hickenlooper cited the 2010 Clean Air Clean Jobs Act that led to several plant conversions and has the state on schedule to comply with the new EPA rules. He said Coffman’s EPA lawsuit could make it more difficult for state officials already working on CPP implementation, including Coffman’s own office.
“Here in Colorado, we have worked hard to combat climate change, and I completely agree with Gov. Hickenlooper that this political lawsuit could hinder and undermine the incredible progress we have made to clean our air and protect our public lands,” State Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, said in a prepared statement on Monday.
“It seems to me the attorney general does not have the authority to unilaterally initiate this lawsuit without first consulting with the chief executive of our state,” Guzman added.
Hickenlooper told the Denver Post that Coffman did not consult him before filing the lawsuit, but Coffman told The Statesman she spoke to the governor about the case on Thursday before filing on Friday and that her staff had informed the governor’s office about her plans in August.
“So [Thursday] was the most recent conversation, but I and my staff have spoken to the governor’s senior staff on several occasions starting in mid-August about the Clean Power Plan and how we might proceed, so our action is not a surprise to folks across the street at the capitol,” Coffman said on Friday.
Coffman also said the state can continue to work on compliance and implementation of the CPP while her office challenges the legality of the plan. Hickenlooper countered that it makes no sense to challenge the plan when the state will be able to comply with it at little or no additional cost.
Conservation Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith on Monday called Coffman’s lawsuit “misguided” and said he was “heartened” by Hickenlooper’s strong response
“The governor is right to question how Coffman’s suit will impact Colorado’s ability to carry out its own plan to reduce carbon pollution,” Maysmith said in a prepared statement. “We encourage the Supreme Court to take up this important question and appreciate the governor taking this important step in calling to question the legality of her actions.”
Advancing Colorado Executive Director Jonathan Lockwood on Monday called Hickenlooper’s actions challenging Coffman “disturbing” because he says the EPA plan will hurt consumers.
“The Clean Power Plan will spike energy prices, hurt the most vulnerable, have seemingly no positive impact on the environment, and all for a huge, burdensome cost,” Lockwood said in a prepared statement. “The Clean Power Plan is all pain, no gain, which is why so many people support Attorney General Coffman fighting hard for Coloradans.”