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Colorado Supreme Court Will Address Oil and Gas Development in its Review of the Martinez Case

On January 29, 2018 the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of the Martinez case.  The state’s high court will decide whether, in the agency’s review of oil and gas permit applications, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (“COGCC”) must elevate “public health and the environment” over other factors identified in the agency’s organic statute.

Case No. 17SC297, Court of Appeals Case No. 16CA564 Petitioners: Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, et al v. Respondents: Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, et al. 

The issue was reframed by the Supreme Court in its order granting the petition for certiorari as:  Whether the court of appeals erred in determining that the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission misinterpreted section 34-60-102(1)(a)(I), C.R.S. as requiring a balance between oil and gas development and public health, safety, and welfare.

The case was initiated in November 2013 by a public interest group’s request to the COGCC that the agency not issue new 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.”

The COGCC denied the request; the district court upheld the Commission’s decision; and the Court of Appeal reversed.  The state’s highest court will now resolve the dispute.

This post was drafted by John Watson, an attorney in the Denver, CO office of Spencer Fane LLP.  For more information, visit spencerfane.com.