It was far from surprising that Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman made good last week on old threats to join 23 other states in suing the EPA to try and stop the government’s push against coal-fired power plants and their clear contribution to global climate change.
Coffman’s move to join other Republican governors and attorneys general was expected as the polarized battle over climate change heats up.
What’s surprising was Gov. John Hickenlooper’s move this week to ask the Colorado Supreme Court whether Coffman, a Republican, had the legal authority to join the partisan lawsuit. That’s because Hickenlooper, a Democrat, is backing the Obama administration’s EPA creation of the Clean Power Plan, a centerpiece in Obama’s push to address global climate change.
Of course Coffman can file the lawsuit as the state’s independent attorney general. Colorado has a long history of attorneys general filing, joining and opposing lawsuits often at odds with state administration, voters, sentiment and in this case, good sense.
Coffman paints herself as a partisan drone here for two reasons: The Clean Power Plan is critical to addressing a global climate change problem that could economically decimate this state, while at the same time claiming that she joined the lawsuit out of concern for jobs and the Colorado economy.
Drought, heat and other weather patterns could end the billions of dollars Colorado depends on from the ski and river tourism industry, as well as the billions of dollars the state creates through agriculture. Global climate change isn’t about being uncomfortably hot in the summer and distantly fretting over the future of seaside vacation homes. And dismissing it has become the fashion only for the equivalent of modern flat-earthers.
Second and more to the point, Colorado is in a unique position among states because we’ve already pushed the power industry to clean up its act and convert to natural gas, solar and wind power. Residents, even at the ballot box, have consistently backed programs like the Clean Power Plan.
Coffman’s jumping on the GOP bandwagon here represents her political interests and opinions, not the interest nor the will of state residents and voters.
But she most certainly has the legal authority to undermine Colorado’s clean air attitudes, progress and her own credibility. Just as Hickenlooper has the authority to also posture politically with his appeal to the Supreme Court.
The bottom line is, however, Hickenlooper can and should ignore Coffman’s ill-conceived ploy and move right ahead with implementing the Clean Power Plan — just like other states politically polarized states are doing.