Lawsuit would challenge COGCC’s constitutionality
Ryan Summerlin September 23, 2013
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A planned class action lawsuit is being prepared by two local critics of the oil and gas industry, who hope to challenge the constitutionality of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).
The two, former oil and gas industry employee Carl McWilliams of Silt and political activist Anita Sherman of Glenwood Springs, on Friday submitted to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Daniel Domenico, the state’s solicitor general, a formal “Notice of Intent” to file a federal class action suit against Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, alleging that the statutes creating the COGCC are in violation of the Colorado Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.
McWilliams, who was severely injured while working at a gas drilling rig in 2009, has long maintained that the oil and gas industry is acting irresponsibly in drilling for gas near homes, schools and towns before the full effect of those drilling activities are known through scientific testing.
Sherman, a former officer of the local Democratic Party, has been an active opponent of some oil and gas industry practices.
The draft text of the suit cites a 1992 Colorado Supreme Court finding that the City of Greeley could not legally prevent oil and gas exploration within the city’s boundaries, even though the city’s electorate had approved an ordinance banning such industry activities.
By ruling that the COGCC’s rules and regulations took precedence over the rights of the electorate of a home rule city, as Greeley was and is, the draft lawsuit argues, the court failed to uphold a basic tenet of constitutional law.
That tenet, according to the draft lawsuit, holds that citizens of the state and the country have “inalienable” right to vote on and make decisions about issues facing their communities, and that the ruling by the Supreme Court essentially invalidates that right in favor of the needs of the oil and gas industry.
The Supreme Court, according to the suit, has effectively acted to rescind the rights and powers of home rule communities, and put the COGCC’s powers above those of the electorate.
According to the suit, it is being filed as a class action on behalf of more than five million Colorado residents.
The plaintiffs, according to Sherman, already have received promises of support and participation by others who have similar views, although Sherman did not name any of those making the promises.
“There are significant monetary costs associated with this lawsuit,” Sherman wrote in an email.
“As stated in the working draft this is a citizens federal class action by “We the People of Colorado” for federal court Judicial Review of the COLORADO OIL & GAS CONSERVATION ACT which created the COGCC,” she continued. “Dozens of concerned citizens are pledging and donating money to have their names on this historic federal class action lawsuit,” wrote Sherman in an email.