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'Shameful': Colorado Supreme Court Denounced for Siding With Big Oil Profits Over Public Health in Youth-Led Suit

The court's ruling was condemned by one environmentalist as "hard proof that the law is written against the best interests of the people, and in favor of oil and gas industry profits"

"It is so disappointing for the youth and the people of Colorado to hear the decision from the Colorado Supreme Court today," said Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, an 18-year-old plaintiff in the youth-led lawsuit. (Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

In a move green groups and youth climate leaders denounced as a gift to the fossil fuel industry at the expense of public health, the Colorado Supreme Court on Monday reversed a lower court decision and ruled that the state's regulators do not have to consider environmental and health impacts before approving new oil and gas projects.

"We will continue the fight for our Earth and our future, despite the mountains we need to climb and the setbacks that we will overcome. Regardless of the court's decision in our case, the fight will continue."
—Emma Bray

"It is so disappointing for the youth and the people of Colorado to hear the decision from the Colorado Supreme Court today," said Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, an 18-year-old plaintiff in the youth-led suit against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

"To know that the judges in the highest court of my state believe that the interests of the oil and gas industry come before the public health, safety, and welfare of my fellow Coloradans is shameful," Martinez added. "But I want you all to know that this fight for climate justice is far from over. My fellow plaintiffs, youth around the world, and I will continue to stand up for our right to a healthy future."

Emma Bray, a 19-year-old plaintiff from Denver, said in a statement the ruling will not stop the growing youth movement for bold climate solutions.

"Not a single person, company, or corporation can silence the young generation's voices," Bray declared. "We will continue the fight for our Earth and our future, despite the mountains we need to climb and the setbacks that we will overcome. Regardless of the court's decision in our case, the fight will continue."

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Backed by the organization Our Children's Trust, the youth-led suit is demanding that the COGCC refuse to grant oil and gas development permits "unless the best available science demonstrates, and an independent, third-party organization confirms, that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado's atmosphere, water, wildlife, and land resources, does not adversely impact human health, and does not contribute to climate change."

As Common Dreams reported at the time, a Colorado court of appeals ruled in 2017 that the COGCC must consider the youth-led demand that new fossil fuel development permits only be issued if the project would not harm public health.

In a statement on Monday, Earthworks' energy program director Bruce Baizel argued that the Colorado Supreme Court "just ruled that Colorado's public health, safety, and welfare are less important than permitting oil and gas production."

Anne Lee Foster of Colorado Rising echoed this sentiment, declaring that the court's ruling—which was enthusiastically celebrated by the state's fossil fuel lobby—"is hard proof that the law is written against the best interests of the people, and in favor of oil and gas industry profits."

"An agency that is charged with promoting an industry rather than protecting the public from harm is doomed to catastrophic failure," Foster said of the COGCC.

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