Colorado Dems Are Squirming As Elections Focus On Boulder’s Climate Litigation

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Democrats running for office in Colorado are staying mum about a lawsuit Boulder officials launched in April to hold oil and energy companies responsible for the effects from climate change.

Democrats vying for Colorado’s governor’s mansion in November are refusing to endorse lawsuits demanding oil companies pay their share of the costs associated with the impact from global warming. Yet many of them are doing their level-best to avoid the topic as the state’s primary elections near.

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, a Democratic candidate for governor, pivoted during a May 20 debate away from questions about the lawsuit and instead talked about his plan to make the state completely reliable on green energy.

“I’m not an attorney,” Polis said. “The absence of leadership out of Washington, with [President Donald] Trump going the wrong way, pulling out of Paris and going backwards, we need local communities, cities, counties, and yes, the state, with our statewide plan for 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.”

He added: “Lawsuits may occur; lawyers will debate them; they’ll get paid. Judges will decide. But at the end of the day, I’m so excited by the groundswell of support at the local level.”

Polis, who has a history of touting anti-oil sentiments in the past, was not the only Democratic candidate to soft-peddle the issue during the debate. (RELATED: Activists Losing Ground, Allies In Their Crusade To Turn This Energy State Green)

Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, for instance, suggested The Centennial State needs strong leadership from a governor rather than a wave of litigation confronting the state’s energy providers.

“I think why Colorado needs a strong and experienced governor is because while I respect local control, these are the issues that a governor can bring people together, can tackle, and can tackle collaboratively,” said Lynne, who’s currently serving with Gov. John Hickenlooper. “That’s a governor who has the credibility to bring people together and work on these issues.”

Former state treasurer Cary Kennedy, meanwhile, offered the most direct response, opposing the lawsuit due to cost considerations. “I don’t know that litigation is the best strategy, but these communities are looking for leadership,” she said while also touting her commitment to green energy. Boulder residents are notoriously antagonistic to the fossil fuel industry.

Democrats are doing their best to stay wedded to Colorado’s energy industry without antagonizing their left-wing base. The state’s oil and gas producers contribute roughly $31 billion to Colorado annually and sent $202 million to the state’s school districts in 2012. Fossil fuels also support more than 232,000 jobs, employing seven percent of Colorado’s workforce.

Other forces are pressuring the candidates on the issues. After the city and county of Boulder and San Miguel County joined together in the lawsuit, The Denver Post, for instance, slammed the attempt to “bypass the political process” on energy policy and win a large settlement with “dubious legal theories.” (RELATED: Colorado Passes Measure Making Fracking Bans Almost Impossible)

Current and former Republican state attorneys general echoed the newspaper. Former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton blasted a comparison the lawsuit makes between oil and gas companies and the tobacco industry. Norton joined with other states in a lawsuit against tobacco companies when he was in state office.

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