Phil Weiser talks opioids, Trump appointments, possible role in Glenwood mine expansion
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser visited Glenwood Springs last week, fielding questions from the Post Independent on issues ranging from the opioid epidemic to the controversial limestone quarry expansion proposal north of town.
“We continue to see deadly forms of opioids like fentanyl being pushed out. We are working on the criminal side, both with partners federally and state, and we are also suing the pharmaceutical companies,” Weiser explained of what his office has done with respect to the opioid epidemic.
Last year, Colorado joined a lengthy number of states when it sued OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.
Weiser hoped that the money the state receives — should it win the lawsuit — gets reinvested into sustainable drug treatment across the state.
“Purdue Pharma is ground zero of the crisis. They, as a company, acted in ways that are just flatly wrong. They told people, ‘don’t worry about this, keep taking OxyContin, it’ll be fine,’ and they knew it was highly addictive,” Weiser alleged of the pharmaceutical company owned by the billionaire Sackler family.
“They lied to people and a lot of lives have been destroyed,” Weiser said. “We need to help people get their lives back on track.”
Weiser, who defeated 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler last November for the attorney general seat, previously served in the Clinton and Obama administrations.
When asked if concerned about the current Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, and his connections to the law firm now lobbying for RMR Industrials in its proposed limestone quarry expansion near Glenwood Springs, Weiser declined to comment.
However, the attorney general did take the opportunity to discuss some of President Trump’s other appointments.
“We’re seeing … a number of appointees, and I’ll talk about [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos, because that’s one I can talk about, who are picked for a job where there is not a commitment to the core of what the agency does,” Weiser said.
“I don’t know that Betsy DeVos believes in public education. …That sort of appointment really concerns me. And, we really need people in government who believe in the mission of the work they’re doing,” he said. “When that doesn’t happen, in a case like Betsy DeVos, it can have really bad consequences.”
Recently, the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck — for which Interior Secretary Bernhardt once worked — was listed as a lobbyist for RMR Industrials concerning, “Issues related to a potential mine expansion project in Colorado.”
The Department of the Interior, led by Bernhardt, a Rifle native, oversees the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Mid-Continent limestone quarry, which RMR hopes to dramatically expand, resides on BLM land just north of Glenwood Springs.
“Our role there is going to be primarily serving as the legal counsel to some state agencies who are involved in it,” Weiser said of what role the attorney general’s office would play, if any, concerning the quarry expansion.
“I am aware of the issue and we have a role, but it is sort of a behind-the-scenes role that we can’t really talk about,” Weiser said.
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The city of Glenwood Springs has proposed investing $5.76 million for street improvements in the 2020 budget.