Colorado remains in EPA lawsuit after partisan spat


DENVER  | Colorado’s high court refused Thursday to get involved in a partisan spat between Colorado’s Democratic governor and Republican attorney general regarding an air pollution lawsuit.

FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2014 file photo, state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman speaks to supporters during the GOP election night gathering, in Denver, Colo. The Colorado Republican Party chairman on Tuesday, June 16, 2015 accused Coffman and former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo of trying to force him from his position and warning he may face a lawsuit and false allegations of infidelity if he refused to leave. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file)Gov. John Hickenlooper asked the state Supreme Court last month to rule that he, not the attorney general, has the final say on whether to sue the federal government. Hickenlooper complained that Coffman should not have joined about two dozen other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency over new air pollution rules without his authorization.

Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman argued that her office is allowed and obligated to independently file lawsuits to protect the state’s interests.

The Supreme Court declined to intervene Thursday. That means that Colorado will remain a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the EPA, claiming that the rules are an illegal overreach of federal power.

The Supreme Court, with two dissenters, ruled that the governor has an “adequate alternative remedy” to having the state’s highest court order Coffman to withdraw from the suit. The justices did not elaborate on what they meant by that, either by filing a lawsuit in a lower court or by seeking Coffman’s defeat at the polls.

Hickenlooper responded with a statement pointing out that while the Supreme Court declined his request, it didn’t rule on the case itself.

“The court did not deny the importance of this issue, nor did it uphold the legality of the attorney general’s actions,” Hickenlooper said.

Coffman did not immediately respond to the order.