DENVER (AP) - Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday he will ask the Colorado Supreme Court whether it was legal for the state attorney general to sue the federal government over new air pollution rules even though Hickenlooper supports the rules and is trying to implement them.
Hickenlooper said he should have made the final decision on whether Attorney General Cynthia Coffman joined 23 other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency. Coffman said the rules are an illegal overreach.
“The law makes it clear that except in limited circumstances - which don’t exist here - the attorney general is not permitted to file such lawsuits unless directed to do so by the governor,” Hickenlooper said.
His plan to seek a Supreme Court opinion was first reported by The Denver Post.
The comments by Hickenlooper, a Democrat, widened the rift between him and Coffman, a Republican, over the EPA rules for power plant pollution, called the Clean Power Plan. Colorado’s governor and attorney general are elected independently, and it’s not unusual for them to be from opposing parties.
In a written statement, Hickenlooper said Coffman has filed many lawsuits without consulting him, raising questions about the use of tax money and the attorney-client relationship between the governor and attorney general.
“These lawsuits create conflicts in statewide policy that are contrary to the best interest of the state of Colorado,” he said.
Coffman said she was disappointed by Hickenlooper’s statement.
“If the governor is arguing that the attorney general cannot take legal action in the best interest of the state without his express permission, he is departing from past examples during his own tenure and decisions of the Colorado Supreme Court,” Coffman said.
Her predecessor, Republican John Suthers, joined an unsuccessful lawsuit over President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, even though Hickenlooper supported the overhaul.
Hickenlooper has said the lawsuit over the Clean Power Plan will create uncertainty and make it difficult for industry to plan cost-effective ways to cut pollution. Coffman said the lawsuit doesn’t keep Hickenlooper from preparing to implement the regulations in the event the suit fails.
The Clean Power Plan calls for state-by-state reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The 2030 target for Colorado is a 40 percent cut in the rate of CO2 per megawatt hour of electricity produced, or a 28 percent cut when measured by total weight of CO2 released in a year.
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