Colorado Governor Jared Polis Moves to Dismiss Himself from Climate Accountability, Turns Back on Duty to Protect Climate, Achieve Environmental Justice in Colorado

This post includes multiple articles and statements on the topic

September 10, 2020, by Jeremy Nichols, (303) 437-7663

Denver– Today, Colorado Governor Jared Polis moved (asked) a court to rule that he has no duty to protect the climate, arguing he is not legally required to achieve legislated greenhouse gas reduction goals in the state.

“With this court filing, Governor Jared Polis has sadly made clear that he has no intention of doing anything meaningful to confront the climate crisis,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.  “This is a huge letdown for the kids, families, communities, and constituents who hoped that Jared Polis would put their health and welfare first and actually take genuine action to confront the climate crisis.”

In a motion to dismiss himself from a lawsuit over the failure of his administration to meet legally required emission reduction deadlines, the Governor argued he has no responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases or meet any climate goals in Colorado.

At issue is the failure of the Polis administration to meet a legal deadline to propose new regulations to achieve a 26% reduction in statewide emissions by 2025, a 50% reduction by 2030, and a 90% reduction by 2050. The failure to ensure greenhouse gas reductions isn’t just jeopardizing the state’s climate progress, it’s putting disproportionately impacted communities at risk.

Under Colorado Senate Bill 19-096, the administration was required to propose regulations to reduce emissions (sufficient to get to the 2025 and 2030 greenhouse gas reduction levels) by July 1, 2020. After July 1, 2020 passed with no proposed regulations, WildEarth Guardians filed suit to compel action

In response to the lawsuit, Jared Polis argued that the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, not the Governor, is responsible for reducing greenhouse gases. However, the Air Quality Control Commission is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Governor.  (Gov. Polis declined to renew a respiratory physician from the AQCC and an advocate for climate action, while renewing and adding commissioners who have been less supportive of residents pollution concerns and calls for climate action or a green recovery.)

“Governor Polis is essentially blaming the housekeeper for the fact that his own house is dirty,” said Nichols.  “Unfortunately, rather than lead, he’s dodging and asserting that others are responsible for Colorado’s lack of climate progress and climate justice.”

“With the climate crisis fueling drought, wildfires, and extreme temperatures in Colorado, it’s disappointing that Governor Polis feels that confronting the climate crisis is not his job,” added Nichols.


Link to the motion:

Colorado Public Radio story:

In the meantime, the CO Air Quality Control Commission continues to plod forward in an uncertain direction on climate rules.  Next week on Sept. 25, the Commission’s greenhouse gas strategy subcommittee is meeting to discuss ideas for reducing emissions and contingency plans offered by Western Resource Advocates and the Air Division, here’s the agenda,  There will be no opportunity for comment, just an opportunity to listen in.


Tensions Between Gov. Polis And Environmentalists Grow After Legal Move In Colorado Climate Lawsuit

By Sam Brasch September 12, 2020, Colorado Public Radio

<p>Gov. Jared Polis signs his first environmental executive order on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, to put more electric cars and buses on the road. He's flanked by state representatives and leaders of environmental groups.</p>
Gov. Jared Polis signs his first environmental executive order on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, to put more electric cars and buses on the road. He’s flanked by state representatives and leaders of environmental groups.

Earlier this summer, two environmental groups sued the state and Gov. Jared Polis, alleging they missed a July 1 deadline to propose rules to meet Colorado’s climate action plan. Now Attorney General Phil Weiser has asked a court to remove Polis’ name from the suit, which the environmental groups filed in an attempt to force faster government action on climate change. 

The motion was filed on Thursday in Denver District Court in the lawsuit from WildEarth Guardians and the Environmental Defense Fund. 

Under the law, it’s up to Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission to enact rules to meet the state’s climate goals. The panel is appointed by the governor, who has not been afraid to use his power. Last month, Polis removed two members who had supported moves to reduce emissions and improve air quality. 

Nevertheless, the attorney general argued the law compels the AQCC to act, not the governor himself. Therefore, he shouldn’t be listed as a defendant, Weiser claimed in the motion. 

Neither the governor’s office nor the attorney general’s office provided any comment when asked about the motion, but the plaintiffs were quick to criticize it.

“It’s unfortunate the governor is pulling this legal maneuver to avoid responsibility,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians.

The motion is the latest turn in a quiet but growing battle between Gov. Polis and environmental groups over two laws Polis signed in 2019. They were meant to transition the state’s economy away from fossil fuels and lower overall greenhouse gas emissions, but how the laws have been carried out has left some environmentalists unsatisfied. 

The main law demands steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions: 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050. All of those goals are set against a 2005 baseline. 

A second law contains the deadline in question. It requires the state propose rules by July 1, 2020, that “cost-effectively allow the state to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.” 

Gov. Polis signed the legislation but issued a statement taking issue with the timeline. It asserted any effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would take years, not months, and couldn’t be covered in one plan from one state agency. 

Since then, the air quality commission has approved rules to promote electric cars and limit specific climate-warming gases, but it hasn’t laid out a comprehensive plan to meet the goals. Regulators plan to present a “roadmap” to meet the targets next month. It’s expected to broadly outline policies rather than propose rules for specific industries. 

WildEarth Guardians filed the lawsuit after the administration failed to propose a comprehensive plan by the deadline.

The Environmental Defense Fund signed on afterward. It also filed a separate lawsuit also attempting to enforce the July 1 deadline, which does not list Polis as a defendant. 

Polis administration faces second lawsuit over delayed climate regulations

Environmental groups say state regulators violated deadline for greenhouse gas rules

By Chase Woodruff -August 17, 2020

The Colorado State Capitol in Denver is pictured on June 11, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Colorado Newsline)

A second environmental group has filed a lawsuit against the state of Colorado over a landmark 2019 climate-change law, alleging that Gov. Jared Polis’ administration has flouted a key deadline for proposing new greenhouse-gas emissions rules. 

The lawsuit, filed by the Environmental Defense Fund on Aug. 5 in Denver District Court, names the state’s Air Quality Control Commission, a body of volunteer commissioners appointed by the governor, and the Air Pollution Control Division, a branch of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as defendants.

Like a similar suit filed last month by a separate group, WildEarth Guardians, EDF’s complaint claims that regulators violated state law by failing to propose a comprehensive set of greenhouse-gas rules before a July 1 deadline.

“EDF seeks an Order from the court that compels the Commission and the APCD to initiate such rulemaking forthwith,” the complaint states.THE MORNING NEWSLETTERSubscribe now.

EDF’s lawsuit — filed without fanfare on the last day of a 35-day judicial review period following the AQCC’s failure to propose the greenhouse-gas rules on July 1 — is perhaps the most significant escalation yet in what has become a quiet but tense conflict between environmentalists and the Polis administration over the direction of state climate policy.

Hopes were high when Polis, who campaigned on a promise of 100% renewable energy by 2040, won a sweeping electoral victory in 2018. But nearly two years later, a wide range of environmental groups has grown increasingly disappointed with the slow pace at which regulators are proceeding.

In a statement, Polis spokesperson Conor Cahill defended the administration’s approach, which has often relied heavily on market-based policies and voluntary commitments from the private sector.

“This administration has taken historic action to advance renewable energy and address the climate crisis,” Cahill said. “We are getting this done the Colorado way by working on smart strategies that lower emissions while strengthening our economy.”

July 1 deadline

The escalating conflict between Polis and advocates of stronger climate action centers on two pieces of climate legislation passed by Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly in 2019. The first, House Bill 19-1261, codified a series of emissions targets for the state to achieve through 2050. The second, Senate Bill 19-096, strengthened reporting requirements and directed the AQCC to propose “measures that would cost-effectively allow the state to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals” by July 1, 2020.

Polis opposed strict mandates on polluters in early drafts of HB-1261, clashing with House Speaker KC Becker over the issue, according to a report from the Colorado Independent. Ultimately, the bill eschewed mandates in favor of softer language stating that Colorado “shall strive … to eliminate statewide greenhouse gas pollution” and set “goals” for the AQCC and other rulemaking bodies to achieve, including a 50% reduction by 2030 and a 90% reduction by 2050.

In the months following HB-1261’s passage, environmental groups expected the AQCC’s first major greenhouse-gas rulemaking to begin before the July 1 deadline, and as recently as the commission’s November 2019 meeting, APCD staff presented commissioners with a tentative rulemaking timeline that included a lengthy “GHG Reduction Rulemaking” scheduled between May and September 2020.

A tentative rulemaking schedule presented by Colorado air-quality regulators in November 2019. Greenhouse gas reduction rulemakings were later delayed. (CDPHE)

But regulators later changed course, ultimately proposing a narrow rule change relating to hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a minor class of greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners. That followed the commission’s enactment of a Zero Emission Vehicle rule, which required automakers to sell more electric cars within the state, and a set of regulations on oil and gas emissions required by Senate Bill 19-181.

Those three regulatory changes are the only actions the AQCC has taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since the passage of HB-1261 — and EDF’s lawsuit, pointing to the state’s own data, says that they’re not nearly enough to meet the new statutory goals. Combined, the three new rules add up to only an estimated 1.6 million tons of annual emissions reductions by 2030 — a tiny fraction of the 64.7 million tons the state needs to cut from its annual emissions to meet its goals.HELP US GROWMake a tax-deductible donation.

“The Commission and APCD have not, and could not, satisfy their obligation to meet the state’s GHG reduction goals through the promulgation of the ZEV, oil and gas, and HFC regulations alone,” the lawsuit says. “By Defendants’ own admissions, and assuming full compliance, the (rules) will only meet approximately 2.7% of the state’s 2030 GHG reduction goal.”

The Polis administration maintains that it wasn’t necessary to propose further rules before July 1 in order to meet HB-1261’s goals. The AQCC is currently planning to enact two major sets of greenhouse gas rules — one regulating transportation emissions and another relating to building energy use — in the second half of 2021.

“We are confident we are fully in compliance with both laws,” said Andrew Bare, a spokesperson for the APCD. “We will continue to pursue effective, scientifically supported policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change.”

“Colorado has fully complied with the requirement in SB 19-096 to propose rulemakings that would be necessary to meet the HB 19-1261 goals and is operating under a real-world budget situation,” Cahill said.

An EDF representative was not available for an interview. Based in New York City and boasting a staff of over 700, the group is widely viewed as a moderate voice in environmental policy circles, and has faced criticism from more progressive groups, including for its support for fracking. The group’s Rocky Mountain regional director, Dan Grossman, is slated to appear this week on a panel at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual summit, representing “pragmatic stakeholders on the other side of the issue.”

AQCC commissioners will continue to deliberate on future climate measures at a “GHG Strategy Subcommitee” meeting on Aug. 18. Additional clarity on the Polis administration’s climate policies is expected with the release of an emissions “roadmap” slated to be completed by the Colorado Energy Office in September.

On Aug. 12, state officials held a listening session to gather feedback from the public and key stakeholders on the roadmap process. Many local officeholders, including several whose communities are currently being impacted by major drought-intensified wildfires, spoke during a public comment session and urged state leadership to move forward more aggressively on climate regulation.

“We are behind,” George Marlin, a Clear Creek County commissioner and a board member at Colorado Communities for Climate Action, told officials. “I’m asking the AQCC to redouble its efforts and find ways to move more quickly on these rulemakings.”

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Lawsuit seeks to use Polis’ own petitioning order in new recall attempt against him

June 29, 2020 By Sherrie Peif

DENVER — As Gov. Jared Polis continues to face push back to his controversial executive order changing the way signatures can be gathered for ballot issues, the most recent legal challenge could end up helping along an effort to remove him from office, but the challenger has to find him first.

Larimer County resident Donna Windholz has filed suit in Denver District Court asking a judge to force Secretary of State Jena Griswold, also named as a defendant in the suit, to apply executive order D 2020 065 “Ordering the Temporary Suspension of Certain Regulatory Statutes Concerning Signature Collection for Ballot Issues …” to a recall petition against Polis that Windholz is circulating.

“EO 065 claims to ‘preserve our constitutional principle of ballot access’ and ‘protects Coloradans’ constitutional right to shape their government through the initiative…process’ all ‘without risking their health or the health of others,’” the filing, obtained by Complete Colorado, reads in part. “Therefore, laying out his recognition of ballot measure circulation as a constitutional right in Colorado and his belief that Coloradans ought not to be forced by the government to choose between participation in democracy and the protection of their own health and well-being in the midst of a pandemic.”

Windholz says that despite that order, Polis failed to extend those same protections to her and her volunteers, who are gathering signatures against him for a recall attempt. Windholz states in her claim that Polis also failed to include another ballot initiative in his executive order, making his order a violationof equal protection rights.

“This political maneuver deprived the volunteers of this initiative of the COVID19 protections afforded by EO 065. The intent was to politically discriminate against this initiative since Polis does not support it thereby placing the petition circulators in danger of contracting COVID-19 and putting their lives at risk. This is a wanton disregard by Polis for the physical safety and well-being of the Colorado citizens,” the filing continues. “It is clear Polis intentionally ignored new requests for Title 1- Article 12 petitions to recall elected officials from the COVID-19 protections in EO 065. This was done as another political maneuver and political discrimination to prevent equal, fair, and safe access to the ballot for new Title 1 – Article 12 recall petitions by way of EO 065 for the citizens of Colorado to exercise their constitutional right to petition.”

Windholz has asked for an expedited determination that would apply EO 065 to the recall petition. However, a court date has not been set yet because, according to Windholz, both Polis and Griswold are avoiding her attempts to serve them with their copies of the complaint, claiming COVID-19 regulations.

“The Denver Sheriff tried to serve Polis at the Governor’s office and they were denied entry due to COVID-19,” Windholz told Complete Colorado. “It seems like I have entered a game of cat and mouse.”

Windholz is now having the Denver District Court Clerk’s office serve both summons via certified mail.

This isn’t Windholz’s first round of political fights, having been politically active since Mitt Romney ran for president in 2012. At that time, she was unaffiliated, she said, after growing up a Democrat. She is now registered as Republican..

“I was so disgusted at the Republicans for picking weak RINOs (Republican’s In Name Only) who would lose,” she said. “I voted Libertarian for President/VP and Republican for other races. I switched back to Republican in 2014 hoping the Republicans would put forth a strong Republican candidate for President.  Windholz adds that she sees the 2020 election as life-or-death for Colorado, just as she did 2016 for the country, so she decided to become active during the primaries.

She is vocally opposing any Rocky Mountain Gun Owner (RMGO)-backed candidates. Her Facebook page “Unite and Fight for the Right” has nearly 1,500 “likes” and while it covers Republican primaries across the state, her big focus has been in Larimer and Weld County, where she calls her slate of candidates the “posse out to drain the Weld County swamp.”

She’s also been active at the Secretary of State’s Office, where she has filed six campaign finance complaints, three of which were dismissed and three that are still open to give the respondents time to correct their filings.

“I said a big prayer, dedicated myself to this state election cycle, and dove into state politics in January,” Windholz said. “It’s been an eye-opening if not an eye-popping experience.”

Windholz Complaint by Sherrie A Peif on Scribd