Enviros sue Dem governor for slow-walking climate action

Source: By Jennifer Hijazi, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Colorado’s governor, who has been hailed as a promising advocate for state-level climate action, is now embroiled in a pair of lawsuits for not acting fast enough to reduce emissions.

Two environmental groups sued Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) in state court this summer, claiming that his administration reneged on its duties to set emissions rules by a legislatively mandated deadline.

Polis last year touted a “multifaceted process” incorporating “multiple state agencies” when he signed into law a comprehensive climate billthat required a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A second bill said the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission must draft rules by July 1 to help the state reach its emissions goals.

The green groups said the government hasn’t complied with that deadline, and now they want the courts to order the administration to act.

“Defendants’ failure to move forward on implementing the state’s mandatory climate response by publishing the required notice of proposed rulemaking by the statutory deadline is arbitrary and capricious, and an unlawful withholding of required agency action under the State Administrative Procedure Act,” WildEarth Guardians wrote in a July 9 complaint filed in Denver District Court.

The Environmental Defense Fund filed a similar lawsuit in the same court on Aug. 7.

The legal dispute highlights dissonance between Polis’ ambitious climate goals and what environmentalists say has been a slow start out of the gate for promises the governor made during his campaign (Climatewire, June 24).

Though Polis committed to 100% renewable energy by 2040 when he assumed office in 2018, that mandate was markedly absent from the climate bills passed last year (Climatewire, May 31, 2019).

The state Air Quality Control Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor’s office and are tasked with monitoring emissions, has made some progress toward the state’s climate goals, including phasing out hydrofluorocarbons and increasing electric vehicle inventory at car dealerships.

The commission also released a tentative schedule in November 2019 for the implementation of the climate bills, including promises to release greenhouse gas emissions reduction rules by September 2020.

Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement that the lawsuit adds pressure on the Polis administration to keep up with the more far-reaching promises the governor made during his campaign.

“While Governor Polis has committed Colorado to meaningful climate action, it’s critical to ensure we actually meet the goals needed to effectively protect the state,” he said.

“With a missed deadline and reports confirming the state is still not on track to meet key greenhouse gas reduction targets, it really is time for the Governor to step it up and ensure real climate progress for Colorado,” he continued.

The slow implementation of Polis’ climate rules also heightens the disproportionate environmental impacts felt by Colorado’s most marginalized communities, WildEarth Guardians said in its lawsuit.

Nichols and local environmental activist Ean Thomas Tafoya also highlighted that point in a July 6 Denver Post op-ed.

The governor’s “good intentions” aren’t enough when low-income communities of color are still staring down the effects of oil and gas development in Denver, Nichols and Tafoya wrote.

“Legal deadlines matter,” they wrote. “This isn’t just about urgent action to reduce greenhouse gases to protect our global climate, it’s about achieving environmental justice in this state.”