Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission v. MartinezAnnotate this Case
The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission properly declined to engage in rulemaking to consider a rule by Respondents, a group of youth activists who proposed a rule that, among other things, would have precluded the Commission from issuing any permits for drilling oil and gas wells “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 Commission declined to engage in rulemaking to consider this proposed rule because, among other things: (1) the rule would have required the Commission to readjust the balance purportedly crafted by the General Assembly under the Act and conditioned new oil and gas drilling on a finding of no cumulative adverse impacts, both of which the Commission believed to be beyond its statutory authority; and (2) the Commission was already working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (“CDPHE”) to address the concerns to which the rule was directed and other Commission priorities took precedence over the proposed rulemaking at this time. Respondents challenged the Commission’s ruling in the Denver District Court, but that court ultimately upheld the Commission’s decision. Respondents appealed, and, in a split, published decision, a division of the court of appeals reversed the district court’s order. The Supreme Court concluded the Commission properly declined to engage in rulemaking to consider Respondents' proposed rule: (1) deferring to the agency's decision; (2) finding the Commission correctly determined that, under the applicable language of the Act, it could not properly adopt the rule proposed by Respondents; and (3) the Commission reasonably relied on the facts that it was already working with the CDPHE to address the concerns underlying Respondents’ proposed rule and that other Commission priorities took precedence at this time.