Opinion

Disingenuous lawsuit over climate change is a drain on Colorado’s economy

Author: Leah Curtsinger - May 23, 2018 - Updated: May 23, 2018

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Leah Curtsinger

While new to many, Colorado celebrates a long history of collaboration to tackle the big challenges our state has faced. Colorado thrives because people from across our state work together, and our energy and natural resource development is a chief example. Here, some of the strictest government oversights of oil and gas production and energy efficiency requirements exist alongside strong agricultural communities and awe-inspiring outdoor recreation –  creating jobs, generating tax revenue, and supporting our quality of life. We achieve all this because of Colorado’s spirit.

Unfortunately, out-of-state, anti-energy activists with ties to billionaire donors are trying to use our courts to undermine this time-honored cooperation, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs and endangering millions of dollars in taxes that fund local schools, law enforcement, and roads throughout Colorado each year.

Last month, the City of Boulder and County of Boulder were joined by the County of San Miguel, in filing a lawsuit against two important manufacturers in our state – ExxonMobil and Suncor – claiming the companies are responsible for climate change.

What is sold as a means to somehow protect Colorado communities is no more than another notch on the belts of professional activist groups seeking to grow a national campaign against the energy sector, doing so through the courts. This lawsuit and other carbon copies of it popping up across the country ignore our spirit of collaboration and the balance Colorado accomplishes.

In Colorado, manufacturing is a $23 billion business that continues to grow each year. The average manufacturing employee made nearly $75,000 in 2016, which includes thousands working in the energy sector. Frivolous litigation like this case puts our economic success at risk and undermines our progress in a number of ways.

As outside groups scramble to create reports and find experts to “prove” the exact damages for which these companies are responsible, legal fees mount. Funds that would otherwise be invested into these businesses and their employees, pay instead for lawsuits that seek to blame a global issue on only two companies. While these activist groups — like the DC-based Niskanen Center and EarthRights International — get their headlines about “taking on Big Oil,” Coloradans miss out on new employment opportunities and lose taxpayer-supported resources to trial attorneys — all for the sake of a negative and disingenuous public relations campaign.

We would also be naive to think the campaign will stop here. Are the parts that go into our vehicles next?  What about the farmers and ranchers who feed our state?  If this lawsuit is allowed to continue, the floodgates could be opened to include any Colorado business that generates carbon emissions.

Lastly, one of the most troubling facets of this debate is that these lawsuits will not result in real solutions to climate change. A new report from the American Petroleum Institute finds that the oil and gas sector was the biggest overall contributor to emissions reduction technologies in the United States from 2000 to 2016, putting the sector ahead of the federal government and all other private sectors. The same group being targeted by these lawsuits is actively seeking solutions to the problem the plaintiffs say they want to address.

Climate change is a global issue that goes far beyond the borders of Colorado. The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI) and our members take pride in doing our part in being good stewards of the land. We work together with business and government to invest smartly and for the future, so we can keep Colorado’s environment strong, among other long-term challenges.

CACI, as the state chamber of commerce, is dedicated to maintaining a pro-business environment in Colorado for the good of jobs and our economy. If we follow in the footsteps of Boulder and San Miguel, we risk being labeled a liability alongside California and New York City, where the cost of doing business actively discourages future investment. That’s why CACI supports the dismissal of this climate lawsuit – so we can get back to growing our economy, the opportunities that better our communities, and preserving what makes this state so wonderful.

Leah Curtsinger

Leah Curtsinger

Leah Curtsinger is director of federal policy for the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.