When a deadly combination of politics, favoritism, and hypocrisy are guiding our country’s environmental policy, we need the strongest, fairest, and most experienced advocate for Colorado at the helm of the Attorney General’s Office. The risks facing Colorado and the rest of the nation are too serious for anything less.
Those of us lucky enough to call Colorado home are surrounded by an incredible diversity of nature — mountains and plains, deserts and canyons, lakes and rivers, sand dunes and forests. From these natural wonders, we derive a wealth of resources that enrich our lives and support our economy. There is nothing more important to the future of Colorado than the sensible, long-term protection of our natural environment. I am uniquely qualified to lead the Attorney General’s Office in these efforts, with twenty years of experience successfully prosecuting cases — including environmental offenses.
State Attorneys General play a crucial role in enforcing or opposing the laws and regulations that govern our natural resources. They are entrusted with protecting the water we drink and the air we breathe, and helping find safe and clean ways to power our modern lives. With the threats currently facing Colorado, having the right person in that role has never been more essential.
I decided to run for Colorado Attorney General because I am concerned about our environmental future. I want my kids (and your kids) to grow up surrounded by the same rich beauty that exists today — or even more of it. People disagree on how to balance vital protection and conservation measures with the need for economic stability and expansion in the shorter term. But the consequences of these hard decisions could not be more serious. Lasting gains on environmental protection require a principled vision that steers conflicts towards balanced, meaningful solutions. There’s no room in the Attorney General’s Office for political ambition or rhetoric that fluctuates with election cycles.
Trump’s Reckless Actions Threaten Colorado
Since January of 2017, the Trump administration has rashly moved to reverse many federal regulations that protect America’s land and water. The current administration’s goal is to eliminate sensible environmental protections that have served our country well, in order to maximize the profits and business incentives of the industries these laws were meant to regulate. Our state has come a long way to change the environmental impact polluters have. By erasing the protections of the Clean Water Rule and the Clean Power Plan, the Trump Administration has given these polluters loopholes to improve their bottom lines. Colorado must have an Attorney General with the experience and qualifications to stand up to the polluters and protect Colorado.
“I am uniquely qualified to lead the Attorney General’s Office in these efforts, with twenty years of experience successfully prosecuting cases — including environmental offenses.”
These regulations may have represented added costs for certain industries and financial interests, but they were designed to improve people’s health, preserve species and ecosystems, and protect us from the pollution of our water and air. To summarily withdraw these rules or alter their terms, with no discussion or compromise, is simply irresponsible.
The effects of Trump’s environmental agenda will be felt throughout the country. In Colorado — where the federal government owns 40% of the land — standards for economic activity on federal land must be environmentally sound. If increased pollution is allowed in the air, land and water managed by federal agencies, the negative impacts will spread throughout our state, and into neighboring states. Our ability to enjoy these public resources may well be diminished.
There will be other negative impacts if the Trump proposals are carried out. The administration’s 2018 federal budget includes major cuts to federal environmental agencies, including a 31% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency and a 12% cut to the Department of Interior. That means $1.5 billion less going to the National Park Service, triggering steep entrance fees at places like Rocky Mountain National Park, while the communities surrounding our national parks brace themselves for the resulting reductions in tourist income.
“There’s no room in the Attorney General’s Office for political ambition or rhetoric that fluctuates with election cycles.”
And these cuts mean the loss of significant funding for agencies like the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) — all located in Colorado. Critics often talk about the jobs that environmental regulations cost, but rarely do they mention the impact that these policies will have on the 14,000 Coloradans who work for those federal environmental and scientific agencies. Many wonder if their departments will be the next to get the axe and if they will have their jobs much longer.
With these reckless federal actions, our country needs a chief lawyer in Colorado who will work rigorously and fairly to protect their interests. And that means the Attorney General must have the courtroom and legal experience to know what to do when our state is threatened. There’s no time to waste learning on the job.
Industry Agendas Cannot Hijack the AG’s Office
In Colorado, we know firsthand the dangers of an Attorney General who openly aligns with the fossil fuels industry over the protection of the people. Attorney General Coffman wasted Colorado taxpayer money when she sued Boulder County to pursue the agenda of
Colorado’s oil and gas drilling industry and, in so doing, sought to deny a local community any role in regulating in industry activity. Before Trump was elected, she joined lawsuits seeking to dismantle regulations on oil and gas drilling, despite the opposition of Colorado’s Governor and many other state leaders, businesses and communities. And as the Trump administration rolls back rules and regulations setting limits on the fossil-fuel industry, she has stood by while Trump’s policies drastically change Colorado’s environmental and economic outlook. The power of the Attorney General’s office should never be used in such a political manner.
Historically, Colorado has proven its commitment to environmental responsibility by enacting some of the country’s toughest protections and regulations. For example, Colorado reached a landmark agreement to regulate methane gas emissions, the second biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the United States, that is stronger than the federal government’s regulations. But protections like these are meaningless if not enforced. Under Coffman, the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Unit has been relatively silent when compared to her predecessors. One of my first steps as Attorney General will be to reinvigorate the Environmental Crimes Unit to ensure that people or companies caught violating our environmental laws are fully investigated, and the right combination of civil and criminal penalties are secured.
Last summer, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reviewed the country’s national monuments with an eye towards downsizing them, a potential boon for the oil-gas and mining companies eager for access to resources on those lands. At the same time that his department was proposing to strip protections from areas held dear by many in their regions, Zinke was working to shield a monument near his own home in Montana, and to restrict mining and drilling on other nearby lands. In Zinke’s words, “Some places are too precious to mine.” I hope Secretary Zinke will view Colorado the same way he does his own home.
Originally published by Michael Dougherty on Medium.