Ensuring Responsible Oil and Gas Development to Protect Coloradans

During my campaign, I have met with Coloradans across our state who are concerned about the safety of their families and the threat of potentially unsafe oil and gas development. Responding to that concern, counties, communities, and neighborhoods across our state are evaluating what measures are necessary to ensure that oil and gas development is safe and protects the public health.

The Attorney General’s office is responsible for working for the people of Colorado and protecting them by enforcing the law. As Colorado’s next Attorney General, I will set up a special unit in the Attorney General’s office to support and counsel local governments in their negotiations and dealings with oil and gas companies.

Under Colorado law, there are two levels of protection and oversight for oil and gas development. First, local governments engage in front line negotiations with oil and gas companies and develop “surface use agreements” and memoranda of understanding that embody a range of protective requirements. As the lawyer for the people of Colorado, the Attorney General needs to serve as a counselor to governmental bodies when they negotiate these agreements and implement protective measures. Second, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is charged with overseeing oil and gas drilling and protecting public health, safety, and the environment. The Attorney General is the lawyer for the Commission, enabling it to do its work effectively.

The Leadership We Need

Unfortunately, our current Attorney General has refused to work with local governments, choosing confrontation over collaboration. She has also sought to undermine the authority of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission by appealing the decision in the Martinez case. Finally, she has undermined Governor Hickenlooper’s call for pragmatic problem-solving, refused to work collaboratively with others, and failed to stand up for the interests of Coloradans.

The petition filed by the plaintiffs in the Martinez case asked the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission to stop issuing permits for oil and gas development until it found that they did not negatively impact the environment or contribute to climate change. Because of bad advice from the Attorney General, the Commission did not consider the merits of the rule because they believed that they did not have the authority to consider the request. That advice was wrong because the Attorney General misread the statute.

The Martinez case would have never reached the Court of Appeals if the Attorney General had given the regulators proper legal advice in the first place. Indeed, the Court of Appeals concluded that the Attorney General gave the Commission bad advice in the first place. In particular, it ruled that the Commission had the authority to consider the proposed rule because Colorado law “mandates that the development of oil and gas in Colorado be regulated subject to the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.” As Governor Hickenlooper explained, the Court of Appeals’ ruling is aligned with the current practice of the Commission. Therefore, the Governor requested that the court’s ruling be allowed to stand. The Attorney General refused to follow that request.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that our Attorney General provided incorrect advice, refused to work with the Governor on a key environmental issue, and acted at cross-purposes with our state’s policy goals. In particular, our Attorney General previously undermined Colorado’s nationally praised rules for restricting methane emissions—which were reached through collaboration between the oil and gas industry and environmentalists—by suing the EPA when it was moving to adopt the Colorado model.
Our Attorney General also challenged President Obama’s Clean Power Plan initiative—over Governor Hickenlooper’s objection—even though Colorado’s clean energy policies positioned the state to comply with this plan. Finally, when Boulder County was in the final stages of adopting a new policy for allowing safe and appropriate oil and gas development, our Attorney General chose to sue rather than work with them and did not consult with Boulder County before taking that action.

We Can Do Better in the Future

To ensure safe oil and gas development, I am committed to supporting honest, science-based evaluation of appropriate protective measures and working with local governments as they develop appropriate protective measures.

At the state level, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (“COGCC”) is responsible—with proper legal guidance—for developing protective measures to address any adverse health impacts on our citizens. Over time, the science of how oil and gas wells contribute to air pollution has continued to develop. As the state agencies charged with oversight continue to monitor this issue, they develop appropriate rules for governing air quality and pollution mitigation measures.

At the local level, when communities consider pushing for protective measures like setback requirements, it is important to allow them flexibility to explore their options. Communities can, for example, enter into memoranda of understanding that allow replacements for existing facilities in order to reduce pollution, noise, and negative environmental impacts

As your next Attorney General, I will always work hard to think through issues carefully and do what I believe is best to protect our communities. In line with the Democratic candidates for Governor, I am not in favor of a proposed statewide categorical requirement that prescribes a 2,500-foot setback for all new facilities. One important concern I have with this proposal is that it would have the unintended consequence of preventing communities from taking measures to keep them safer. Notably, under this proposal, companies would have the incentive to keep older and dirtier facilities running for longer and communities could not authorize the retirement of such facilities in return for the establishment of new and safer ones. Moreover, it is not sufficient to focus only on appropriate setback requirements; it is also important to consider other protections, such as rules governing well casing, cementing, and blowout prevention.

As Attorney General, I will work with local communities to develop protections for the public health, safety, and the environment. To counsel and support their efforts, a new unit I will establish within the Office of the Attorney General will support local governments not only in their handling of oil and gas matters within their authority, but also in navigating the COGCC process.

If a community and an oil and gas company cannot reach an agreement, or if the agreement is subject to COGCC approval, this new unit will provide guidance to local governments that are participating in COGCC proceedings. Local governments seeking to protect the health and safety of their people may not have in-house attorneys with expertise in navigating the complex world of COGCC proceedings. By providing this expertise to local governments, the Office of the Attorney General will help ensure local governments are given good advice and their voices are heard in the COGCC process.

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In 2018, the citizens of Colorado will have an opportunity to elect an Attorney General who is committed to keeping communities safe, collaborating with local governments, and protecting our public health and environment. I will be that Attorney General. Please join me in fighting to protect the people of Colorado and our land, air, and water.


Phil-Weiser

Fighting for Affordable and Accessible Health Care for All Coloradans

As I travel around Colorado, I hear people share their anxieties about health care. Their stories fuel my passion to fight for better health care for all Coloradans. Affordable, quality health care is a right we must provide all residents, not a privilege for the wealthy few.

It is clear to us here in Colorado that Washington—given its current level of dysfunction—will not solve our health care problems.  It’s up to us to develop and implement solutions here in Colorado. As Colorado’s next Attorney General, I will work hard to improve health care and reduce the financial burdens on Coloradans.

First, I will stand up against the Trump administration’s attack on affordable health care. I will work to protect the Affordable Care Act’s provisions that enable hundreds of thousands of Coloradans to have access to affordable and reliable health care. I will challenge the Trump Administration’s decision to cut off the Act’s cost-sharing reduction payments, which reduce health care costs for low-income Americans, joining the other states who have already done so, and I will fight to keep in place the law’s protection of consumers from fraud, mismanagement, and deception. 

Second, we need to do more than protect the Affordable Care Act because the rising costs of health care, particularly in more remote areas, is an increasing threat to our residents.  As one multi-state study found, Coloradans pay an average of 17% more for health care than citizens in other similar states.  On the Western Slope, the situation is even more dire, with citizens now paying over $100 more per month on health care than the statewide median.  Consequently, too many Coloradans are buried in medical debt or one medical hardship away from financial disaster.

Together, we can do better.

Increasing Competition among Providers and Insurers

One of the critical driving forces behind the rising costs of health care is the absence of competition and transparency in that market.  One study found that communities served by hospitals with monopoly power over the market pay 15% more in hospital costs than those living in competitive environments.  

As Attorney General, I will enforce competition laws, using my experience as an Obama Administration antitrust official to make sure that health care providers and health care insurers compete on cost and quality for the benefit of all Coloradans.  I will do that by reviewing mergers carefully, combating predatory practices in the health care market, and addressing hidden fees.

We need our AG to review and investigate mergers of health care providers with great care.  Over the last several years, mergers in health care have changed the structure of the industry.  In some cases, mergers can provide valuable economies of scale, but in other cases, they increase costs or reduce quality of care by reducing the number of providers competing for patients.   

Under our antitrust laws, we depend on federal and state enforcers to ensure an adequate level of competition to protect consumers.  I worked on the Obama Administration’s initiative to improve our merger review standards, and, as Colorado’s next Attorney General, I will work to vigorously enforce our federal and state antitrust laws.

I will work hard to investigate and address anticompetitive practices in the health care sector. Consider how some insurers have forced providers to sign “most favored nation” agreements that prevent providers from giving better rates to other insurance companies.  When I worked at the Justice Department under President Obama, we investigated this practice and brought an enforcement action to address the anticompetitive harm to patients on account of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s use of such clauses.  (The Department of Justice also worked with the Michigan Attorney General on that case and the subsequent legislation that banned the practice in the state.)  Similarly, the use of exclusive contracting arrangements—where an insurance plan locks up an important hospital—can prevent new providers from entering the market to provide patients with better care at a cheaper price. At the Justice Department, I also worked on an important case that, along with Texas Attorney General’s office, challenged such a practice.

Finally, we need to protect consumers by addressing the hidden fees that are imposed on them.  In some cases, such fees are referred to as “facility fees,” and they are crammed into consumers’ bills without their knowledge or clear disclosure when the patient is receiving care.  One recent study on Colorado’s health care costs concluded that facility fees are one of the key cost drivers in Colorado’s health care market.  Such fees, as one important case concluded, can constitute fraud and be illegal.  

Similarly, emergency rooms sometimes impose exorbitant fees, taking advantage of consumers who are inherently vulnerable and unaware that they can be charged additional “facility fees” of hundreds or even thousands of dollars on top of the cost of treatment for their urgent medical needs.  In some cases, consumers might not be aware that they are being treated in a “pop-up” emergency room (as opposed to an acute care center), and that such fees wouldn’t arise had they visited a conventional urgent care facility.  Indeed, 70% of the people who are treated at free-standing ERs could be treated at urgent care centers and the cost of procedures at such facilities are up to ten times what they cost at urgent care centers.  

To add insult on top of injury, emergency room facility feesrose 89 percent between 2009 and 2015 — rising twice as fast as the price of outpatient health care, and four times as fast as overall health care spending.”  As Attorney General, I will advocate for consumers, work to make such fees transparent (as required by Colorado law), and address any cases where consumers are unfairly charged such fees.

Encouraging Innovation in Health Care

Over time, one of the important strategies for lowering the cost of health care and increasing access will be to encourage innovation in this sector.  For starters, we need to enable tele-medicine solutions by ensuring that all hospitals have access to top-flight reliable broadband. When I visited Craig, Colorado, I learned that the hospital there lacks access to reliable broadband, instead depending on a single fiber line that often gets cut.  That vulnerability undermines progress, and endangers lives.  We need to do better.  And we also need to ensure that all Coloradans have reliable broadband connections so they can benefit from tele-medicine and remote monitoring opportunities, which both increases access to health care and lowers costs.  Here’s my plan for bringing broadband to all Coloradans.

Second, we need to evaluate opportunities to encourage accountable care organizations and other experiments designed to improve health care outcomes—rather than merely paying for health care services, which can incentivize hospitals to provide too many complex and expensive services without regard to their patients’ actual health care needs.  We should also use innovative programs to address the shortage of family medicine doctors, and the lack of good options in many corners of our state.  One promising program worthy of support is the CU School of Medicine’s rural program, which encourages Colorado doctors to practice in rural areas that are frequently underserved.

Colorado is uniquely well-positioned to drive such health care innovation, as we have a thriving health care ecosystem and the potential to be a nation-wide leader.  I have worked, as the Founder of the Silicon Flatirons Center, to develop this ecosystem and would continue to do so as Attorney General (see, for example, this conference and this report).

Third, we need to liberate health care information—while also safeguarding its privacy—so patients can better manage their own care.  The federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, gives patients the right to access their own health care information. But in practice, patients rarely have meaningful access to their electronic health records, which means health care intermediaries are not to help patients better manage their care.  

If patients can get access to their own health care information, this will enable improved health care analytics and open up new lines of innovation that could enable cheaper, more effective, and more accessible health care, and all without providing third parties any access to such information except with the clear consent of the patient.  As Attorney General, I would work to enforce the right of Coloradans to access their information, drive the development and deployment of appropriate standards, and oversee the use of such information by health care intermediaries, thereby facilitating important health care innovation.

Finally, we need to develop innovative policy solutions, like a reinsurance program that would address the high costs of rural health care.  One study suggests that an appropriate reinsurance program would reduce premiums by 20% in the individual insurance market.  The essence of this proposal is that, under the Affordable Care Act, states can take steps that would reduce federal spending (in this case, tax credits that support health insurance) and, through a waiver process, receive federal support on account of such savings.  

Another set of innovative solutions includes considering a “public option” model where Coloradans can buy into Medicaid or a co-op plan that would allow small businesses to band together.  As Attorney General, I would work with the Legislature and the Governor to consider, develop, and implement appropriate solutions (including public-private partnership models) that would bring needed relief to the many Coloradans—particularly in the 14 Colorado counties with only one provider on the health care insurance exchange—who are suffering under the weight of rising health insurance costs.

Challenging Health Care Fraud

A final opportunity to lower health care prices is to address the level of health care fraud in Colorado.  The Attorney General’s office is charged with bringing cases to address health care fraud. And the AG can also work with others in the state to help improve our oversight process.  Unfortunately, Colorado has fared poorly on this front, with only 3 of 28 states in a recent audit performing worse than we did on Medicaid waste.  As the Denver Post put it in a recent editorial:  “Colorado’s $10 billion Medicaid program is throwing away money and not doing a good enough job trying to get it back.”  As Attorney General, I will work hard to turn this record around and prosecute those entities than commit health care fraud and take away money that should be spent helping out those in need.

* * *

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the United States made important strides in creating a just and equitable health care system. But we still have a long way to go, and efforts to set back the law’s protections are taking us further back.  The high cost and lack of access to quality and reliable health care is a serious threat to Coloradans.  By fighting for competition and innovation, and challenging fraud, I will work tirelessly to protect our citizens and provide them with the health care they deserve.  


Phil Weiser

Press Release: Phil Weiser Releases First TV Ad

Phil Weiser Releases First Television Advertisement in Race for Colorado Attorney General 

DENVER, CO, May 21, 2018 – Today, the Phil Weiser for Attorney General campaign released its first television advertisement of the 2018 election cycle. Entitled “Preoccupied,” the video depicts Weiser’s path to run and his vision for the next Attorney General of Colorado.

 

The 30 second spot opens with a scene of Weiser watching the 2016 presidential election results, explaining “this was the night that I decided to run for Attorney General.” The ad proceeds to show Weiser writing down all the ways “[I can] protect Colorado from Donald Trump,” on topics like voting rights, predatory lending, net neutrality, civil rights, gun safety, and protecting clean water and public lands.

 

“Some ideas,” explains Weiser, come from his professional experiences – working in the U.S. Department of Justice under Presidents Obama and Clinton, clerking for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and serving as Dean of CU Law School. Other ideas, continues Weiser “come from being a dad.”

 

The ad features appearances by Weiser’s wife, Dr. Heidi Wald, and their two children. It also features a cameo appearance by Ken Salazar, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Senator, and Attorney General of Colorado. Salazar was an early supporter, backing Weiser since his campaign launch in May 2017.

 

In the final scene of the Weiser family hiking on Mount Falcon, the narration by Weiser gives name to the ad explaining, “my kids will tell you, I’ve been a little preoccupied.” It ends with the campaign’s slogan, “Stronger. Fairer. Weiser.”

 

The ad will run statewide through the June 26 primary election.

Bill Ritter

Governor Bill Ritter Endorses Phil Weiser for Colorado Attorney General

DENVER, CO, May 15 – Today, the Phil Weiser campaign for Attorney General announced another prominent endorsement, from Colorado’s 41st governor Bill Ritter.

Said Ritter, “Phil Weiser is an important leader in Colorado and will be a great Attorney General.  I have worked with Phil since 2005 and can attest to his legal mind, his leadership abilities, and his commitment to building a 21st century economy here in Colorado.”

The governor continued, “Climate change represents a pressing threat to our land, air, and water and we need our next Attorney General to be a force for progress.  Phil will be that Attorney General, leading on clean energy technologies, promoting broadband, and fighting for opportunities for all Coloradans.”

Weiser responded to the support, “I joined Bill Ritter’s 2006 Gubernatorial Campaign and worked with his administration as the Co-Chair of Colorado’s Innovation Council, promoting access to broadband, building startup communities, and supporting  a clean energy agenda. I am honored to have his support as I continue to work on these issues and campaign to be Colorado’s next Attorney General.”

Governor Ritter, who also served as the District Attorney for Denver, is the seventh statewide elected official and the second former governor of Colorado to endorse Weiser’s campaign. Last month, Governor Roy Romer also backed Weiser’s bid for Attorney General.  

7-statewide-officials

To date,  the following individuals who held statewide elected office in Colorado have endorsed Phil:


1 year graphic

One Year on the Campaign Trail

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since we kicked off this campaign. The milestones we’ve achieved are a direct result of the incredible efforts made by you—our team of devoted supporters, including over 1,000 volunteers and 3,600 unique donors.

Now that we’ve reached 365 days on the campaign, we’re excited to share another fun graphic, illustrating this amazing year of progress, building relationships, and touching every corner of our great state. Fueled by just a little caffeine, it has been a pleasure to connect with so many engaged Coloradans across all 64 counties to talk about your dreams, the issues facing your communities, and how we can work together to create a better future.

1 year graphic

Our sights are now set on the June 26th Democratic primary, which is only 47 days away. Thank you for helping us continue to spread the word about Phil's commitment to defending, fighting for, and protecting all Coloradans.

Please proudly share this graphic with your friends on Facebook to show the successes we’ve accomplished together.

Thank you for your tremendous support during this adventure-filled year. We look forward to sharing many, many more iced teas with you and our new supporters as we fight for our democracy.


Phil Weiser

Local Elected, Nationally Appointed Colorado Law Enforcement Leaders Endorse Phil Weiser for AG

Stan Garnett, John Walsh Among Five leaders in Colorado Law Enforcement to Back Weiser, Touting his Commitment to Public Safety for all Coloradans, and Proven Ability to Collaborate with District Attorneys, Sheriffs, and Law Enforcement Across the State

DENVER, CO, May 2, 2018 – Today, the Phil Weiser Attorney General campaign released a series of endorsements from law enforcement leaders across Colorado. The supporters – including a former U.S. Attorney for Colorado, the Sheriff of Boulder County, and current and former District Attorneys from Boulder, Pueblo, Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties – celebrated Weiser’s commitment to collaborative law enforcement to protect public safety and fight for opportunity for all Coloradans.

Stan Garnett, who ran for Attorney General in 2010 and served as Boulder County’s top prosecutor, explained that “Phil will work well with our State’s District Attorneys, Sheriffs, and other leaders in law enforcement to protect the public, address critical issues like the opioid crisis, and ensure that our criminal justice system works effectively and fairly.”

John Walsh, appointed by President Barack Obama to oversee criminal prosecutions and federal civil cases across the state as the U.S. Attorney for Colorado, said Weiser would “fairly and aggressively” protect public safety “across every county and corner of Colorado.”

District Attorneys Jeff Chostner and Bruce Brown both highlighted a fellowship program launched by Weiser as Dean of the University of Colorado Law School, for recent law school graduates to work in prosecutor offices across the state, citing his commitment to serve all of the people of Colorado. Chostner is the DA for Pueblo County and president of the state’s District Attorneys’ Council. Brown is the DA for Colorado’s Fifth Judicial District, representing Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake, and Summit counties.       

Joe Pelle, Sheriff of Boulder County, said that sheriffs and law enforcement officials can look to Weiser as an innovative partner to help protect the public and address important issues like the opioid crisis and gun safety.

In response to the support, Weiser stated:

“We need an Attorney General who works collaboratively with law enforcement across the state to protect and represent all of Colorado.” He continued, “It has been my honor to work with dedicated public servants across the state, throughout my career, to build successful programs that accomplish just that. I look forward to continuing my successful track record of partnering with sheriffs, prosecutors, and their teams to serve Colorado as our next Attorney General.”

Full text of each endorsement appears below.

Stan Garnett, former District Attorney for Boulder County, former Democrat candidate for Colorado Attorney General

"Phil Weiser is the best choice to be Colorado's next Attorney General.  Phil's commitment to public safety, defending our constitutional freedoms, and fighting for all Coloradans will make him a great Attorney General.  In his work in the Obama Administration and as the Dean of the CU Law School, Phil demonstrated his leadership skills, his commitment to helping improve people's lives, and his dedication to the rule of law.  As our Attorney General, Phil will work well with our State's District Attorneys, Sheriffs, and other leaders in law enforcement to protect the public, address critical issues like the opioid crisis, and ensure that our criminal justice system works effectively and fairly."

John Walsh, former U.S. Attorney for Colorado, former Chairman of the national Attorney General Advisory Committee

"Phil Weiser will ensure that the Colorado Attorney General’s Office works with law enforcement across the state to protect our public safety in every county and corner of Colorado – and to do that crucial job fairly and aggressively.  He is committed to bringing 21st Century law enforcement strategies and technologies to bear on behalf of all Coloradans – and to prosecute wrongdoers and to help victims of crime and of the opioid crisis that plagues our state. I’m proud to support him." 

Jeff Chostner, District Attorney for Pueblo County and President of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council

"We need an Attorney General in Colorado who will work effectively with District Attorneys, Sheriffs, and other law enforcement officials across the state to protect the public and keep us safe.  Phil Weiser will be that Attorney General.   As the Dean of the University of Colorado Law School, he worked with District Attorneys across the State to develop a fellowship program that brought recent law school graduates into DA's offices across the state.  And as both as a Dean and as a candidate, he has demonstrated his commitment to all of the people of Colorado."

Bruce Brown, District Attorney for the Fifth Judicial District of Colorado, representing Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake, and Summit Counties

"Our Attorney General is our state's chief law enforcement officer and it is important to find someone of the utmost integrity, commitment to equal justice for all, and an ability to collaborate effectively with leaders across the state.  Phil Weiser has demonstrated his values, legal knowledge, and leadership ability in a range of positions, including as the Dean of the CU Law School.  In that position, he also showed that he cared about supporting law enforcement in rural areas, developing a unique fellowship program that placed recent law school graduates into prosecutors' offices.   He also demonstrated that he cares about the whole state, building relationships across Colorado and working to support access to broadband Internet access across Colorado.  As our next Attorney General, he will be a great lawyer for all Coloradans."

Joe Pelle, Sheriff of Boulder County

"Colorado needs Phil Weiser as our next Attorney General.  Phil will work with sheriffs and other law enforcement officials across the state on a range of important issues, including addressing the opioid epidemic, enforcing Colorado's common sense gun safety laws, and improving gun safety by banning bump stocks. We can also count on Phil to look for innovative ways to help law enforcement officials protect the public. This is the sort of leadership Phil will provide as our next AG."