We Need our Next AG to Protect Colorado’s Water

Water is the lifeblood of our state.  Our agricultural economy, tourism industry, and quality of life in this beautiful state depend on it.  Because of climate change and the projected growth that will take place in Colorado over the decades ahead, we need innovative leadership to protect, conserve, and manage our water.  I will bring innovation to the office of Attorney General, and that includes leadership on water as a top priority.

The State of Water in Colorado

In 2018, we are, once again, experiencing drought-like conditions.  For Colorado, the natural form of water storage is our snowpack, which serves as a reservoir, holding water until it melts in the spring.  This year, our snowpack level is far below average, with some areas of the state hovering around only 50% of normal.  These areas are unlikely to return to the norm, which is a painful consequence of climate change.  And the projected growth of Colorado’s population—which could see a 50% increase by 2050 from 2015 levels—means that we cannot be complacent in how we manage our water.

As a headwater state, Colorado’s water flows to eighteen states and Mexico and is subject to nine different formal agreements.  The Colorado River Compact is particularly important among these agreements.  Our Attorney General needs to understand this agreement and other compacts in order to protect Colorado’s interests.  Over the years, collaboration, negotiation, and litigation over our water rights has taken place regularly—nearly 120 years of litigation in the case of the Arkansas River—and our Attorney General needs to ensure that Colorado defends its position effectively.

This necessity is dramatically demonstrated by the current controversy in the Colorado River Basin with the Central Arizona Project’s refusal to join a collaborative effort to create a more sustainable river system.  Together with the other three Upper Basin states (Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico), Colorado’s Attorney General must stand up to protect our allocation of Colorado River water and to ensure that our state is not held liable for non-compliance with any relevant agreement.  At the same time, we must work hard to maintain mutually beneficial relationships with the other states to enable us to manage our water supplies during an extended drought.

The guidelines governing Colorado River management will expire in 2025, which means that the states and federal government will begin discussions on this issue no later than 2020.  We must use this opportunity to avoid the potential of the continued draining of Lake Powell and Lake Mead on account of shortsighted water management decisions.  To guide these discussions to a fair and appropriate conclusion, Colorado needs to lead, setting an innovative and collaborative spirit that prevents a possible death spiral in how we manage our water.  As our next Attorney General, I will do just that.

Colorado’s Water Plan

The good news is that Colorado’s Water Plan provides a valuable framework for managing our water.  An overall theme of the Plan is that all of Colorado must work together to ensure that we manage and use our water effectively.   As the Plan states:

Because our water challenges are great and demand our united focus. Because other governments watch Colorado’s water positions closely. Because discordant infighting weakens Colorado’s position in interstate and international arenas, invites unnecessary federal intervention in our water affairs, and dulls our responsiveness. It’s undeniable: our water challenges necessitate that we pull together as one, innovate, and become more agile.

As the Plan provides, we must “recognize that water rights are property rights whose owners are free to respond to the economics of the marketplace and to continue to work within our local control structure.”  Within the framework of the Plan, Colorado’s Attorney General needs to protect water rights, ensure the continued vitality of agricultural communities, protect outdoor recreational economies that rely on our rivers, and allow reasonable transfer arrangements.  Our Attorney General must realize that alternative water transfer arrangements present an opportunity, a risk, and a challenge.

Alternative water transfer agreements offer both risk and opportunity.  If managed effectively and reasonably, they allow for a win-win proposition—enabling those with water rights that can be utilized more efficiently to sell access to them.  If they are not overseen appropriately, the risk is that such arrangements can result in a “buy and dry” scenario. Communities, like Crowley County, can be destroyed and local food production can be imperiled if water rights are sold off wholesale.  The challenge is thus to allow for reasonable transfers, encourage innovation, and protect local agricultural economies.

For a good example of an innovative approach to water management, consider the case of the Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company.  That company maintains ownership of the water rights for farmers, allows for certain leasing arrangements, and maintains agricultural communities.  Under such a model, leases are enabled by reducing some consumption (for instance, by switching to different crops or by using split season irrigation) and creating leasable water while maintaining substantial levels of agricultural productivity and economic activity.

Colorado is well-positioned to continue its international leadership position in the adoption of advanced water technology.  With the benefit of access to broadband Internet technology, for example, farmers can collect and act on real-time water use data, consuming less water as a result and engaging in better crop management.  Colorado can continue to be a pioneer in developing and adopting such practices, which will become increasingly important as our nation adapts to the challenges of climate change.

The Opportunity for Innovation in Water Law and Policy

The trend lines, as noted above, are clear—we cannot simply stay our current course and weather the challenges of growth and climate change.  Thankfully, with the guidance of the Water Plan and the ingenuity of Coloradans, we are poised to manage our emerging challenges in water law and policy through innovation.  This innovation includes action along three frontiers:  (1) conservation, (2) re-use, and (3) storage.  The challenges ahead demand that we make progress on all three fronts.

Under the Water Plan, the Colorado Water Conservation Board plays a central role in overseeing Colorado’s water policy.  The Attorney General sits on this Board as an ex officio member.  By all accounts, our current Attorney General is missing in action and not a leader in this field.  As Colorado’s next Attorney General, I will engage proactively on the Board and work collaboratively with its members to meet the challenges ahead.  I will also engage with the Basin Roundtables, which provide a crucial form of local governance and feedback on the development of an effective water policy here in Colorado.

Finally, I will work with the lawyers I will oversee in the office of Attorney General to encourage more innovative thinking about how to move water law and policy forward to address emerging challenges.  In particular, our water law framework must encourage new technologies in water use and conservation that enable our water to go farther.  Only through innovation can we protect vital industries, notably, agriculture and tourism, that depend on our water.

Water Conservation

Under the Water Plan, Colorado has announced a goal of conserving 400,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial water by 2050.  This goal will require a range of initiatives, including “xeriscaping,” building water-saving actions into land use planning, using water-free urinals, developing and communicating social norms for water use, and other techniques for conserving water.  The Water Plan also wisely calls for better integration of water conservation into land use and development decisions, so that new development incorporates water-saving techniques consistent with local government goals. As Attorney General, I would work with the Water Conservation Board and the Department of Local Affairs to encourage these measures, including developing competitions for developing and implementing such techniques.

Water Re-use

In the 1980s, Denver Water pioneered “direct potable reuse,” or DPR, through research and development efforts.  This technique is only starting to be used, and the Colorado Legislature, led by Representative Jeni Arndt, passed three bills last session to allow reclaimed water to be used for toilet flushing, to be used for industrial hemp, and even to allow reclaimed water to be used for edible crops.  To be sure, when water is reused, there are water quality concerns, which are addressed by Regulation 84, which requires effective testing and oversight.  Going forward, we need to pursue such avenues as a means of using our water more intelligently.

Water Storage

Given the increased demand for water and the decline of the natural storage and flows our state has relied on for generations (that is, the declining snowpack and runoff caused by climate change), the need for strategic new storage projects is self-evident.  We need to be smart about new storage and carefully consider increasing the capacity of existing reservoirs, developing aquifer storage and recharge, and creating new off-stream storage opportunities.  As Attorney General, I will support such efforts, including evaluating ways to make the permitting process more efficient, such as allowing multiple permits to be pursued at the same time (rather than in sequence).  In short, the future of water will necessarily include strategic storage opportunities that are supported by affected constituencies.  Colorado is poised to be a leader in this area.

* * *

The future of water in Colorado calls for innovation, collaboration, and creative problem solving.  This is the very spirit I will bring to the Colorado Attorney General’s office.  Colorado faces a simple math challenge—our population is increasing and natural storage and flows of water are decreasing on account of climate change.  We can meet this challenge, but only with the innovative and collaborative leadership that Colorado is known for.


Letters of Support

"I am grateful to all 18 Coloradans whose Letters to the Editor in support of my campaign have been published by newspapers around the state. It is powerful when someone captures what this campaign is about in their own words and does it even better than I can."

Linda Spaet, Ski High News, Granby

Beth Groundwater, Summit Daily, Summit County

Katherine Thomas, Castle Rock News Press, Castle Rock

Joan Brett, Daily Camera, Boulder

Debbie Bruell, Aspen Daily News, Aspen

Mark Lacis, Times Call, Longmont

Gail Flesher, Vail Daily, Vail

Jill Ryan, The Aspen Times, Aspen

Katherine Thomas, Journal Advocate, Sterling

Dorris Weiss, Aspen Daily News, Aspen

Sally Boccella, The Coloradoan, Johnston

The Durango Herald, Durango

Matt Dority, Castle Rock News Press, Castle Rock

Josh and Christina Lautenberg, Vail Daily, Vail

Del Norte, Valley Courier, Alamosa

Debbie Bruell, Post Independent, Glenwood Springs and Rifle

Castle Rock News Press, Castle Rock

Rick Brown, Elbert County News, Elbert County


A Call for Empathy and Against Separating Immigrant Families

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.”   -Elie Wiesel

For me, the treatment of refugees is personal.  It is well known that the Nazis regularly separated families.  That was true for my family.  The Nazis removed (and killed) my uncle from my grandparents.  We cannot allow the United States of America to separate families from each other and must end the federal government’s inhumane “zero tolerance” policy.

My mom was born in the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 13, 1945.  On April 14, 1945, Buchenwald was liberated by the US Army. First Switzerland, and then the United States, welcomed my family, providing humane treatment, freedom, and opportunity.  This is the tradition—of welcoming strangers with open arms—that our nation is built upon.  At our best, we are empathetic and welcoming, remembering that many of us came to the United States after traumatic experiences elsewhere. 

Our nation has the opportunity to live up to our empathetic and welcoming tradition by ending an inhumane policy that inflicts trauma on children.  Despite calls from leaders across the political spectrum to change this policy, including Laura Bush and a bipartisan group of former US Attorneys, the Trump Administration is refusing to budge.  But when “We the People” are loud and clear, our voices will be heard.

Even during one of our nation’s biggest moral failings, the internment of Japanese Americans, Colorado Governor Ralph Carr stood up for the principle of equal and fair treatment for all.  Governor John Hickenlooper now follows this tradition by acting to forbid Colorado state law enforcement from aiding or abetting any action to separate families.  Our Colorado Attorney General, however, has stayed silent and has failed to join with other State Attorneys General in condemning the “no tolerance” policy adopted by the Trump Administration.

The humane and legal treatment of immigrants is a moral imperative.  As Attorney General, I will defend the constitutional rights of and fight for the fair treatment of immigrants.  I will protect the DREAMers and challenge the Muslim ban.  I will defend the right of cities like Denver to refuse to allow their law enforcement officials to be commandeered by the Department of Homeland Security and turned into deportation police.  I will also evaluate whether there are viable legal avenues to end the “zero tolerance” policy. 

We cannot wait for—and should not need—a court of law to end the “zero tolerance” policy recently adopted by the Trump Administration.  We must end this horrific practice through political pressure that calls on the federal government to live up to our values as Americans.  Now is the time to live up to our values as a nation and as human beings by standing up for these children and families. To make your voices heard, please join me this Friday, June 22nd at 4 pm in Boulder as I join others to speak out against the inhumane policy of separating children from their families.

Four Generations
Phil, daughter, grandma, and mom

 


Phil Weiser, Candidate for Colorado Attorney General

Phil’s Former Students on Why He’s Their Choice for AG - and Why He Should Be Yours!

People who've worked with Phil know he's the right choice for Colorado's Attorney General because he will reach across the partisan divide and bring people together to solve our problems.

"Phil's an extremely pragmatic guy and that's exactly what we need right now. We need someone who’s not going to get bogged down in ideological purity, in political shouting matches, in the kind of antics we have seen paralyze our government." - Cole J. Woodward, Litigation Attorney

https://youtu.be/4XYQqsiKV6c

"Phil has spent his career working with people from both parties, people from across the political spectrum and across various backgrounds. He has lots of experience recognizing and listening to issues from a broad base of people. Regardless of your political affiliations he will work to work to make your life better. He wants to help everybody he meets." - Greg Garcia, Technology Transactions Attorney

https://youtu.be/F4iy9y-j3nU


Leaving a Better World for Our Kids: A Father’s Thoughts from the Campaign Trail

After the last Presidential election (as captured in our TV ad), I decided to run to become Colorado’s next Attorney General because I am committed to building a better world for our children. My wife, Heidi, and I have made the campaign a family experience, taking our children on the road around Colorado and inspiring their commitment to public service.

On this Father’s Day, I wanted to reflect on the values that drive my campaign—not just as an Attorney General Candidate, but as a parent.

Defending Our Children’s Freedoms

My grandparents and mom came to the United States after surviving the Holocaust. Their experience inspires my lifelong commitment to public service and my campaign to be Colorado’s next Attorney General. My family’s journey to freedom gave me the opportunity to live the American dream and inspires my optimistic and positive outlook for building a better future. But sadly, today, many parents and grandparents watch as their children face a future where these freedoms are being attacked and eroded.

A basic question that our nation is facing in 2018 is whether we will preserve our democracy and the rule of law.  Our constitutional democracy is not something we are entitled to; we as citizens need to earn it and defend it. As a parent, I feel the urgent call to fight for it.

From standing up to dark money to fighting gerrymandering, the issues facing Colorado’s next AG are about protecting future generations. 

I’m running to be Colorado’s next Attorney General to fight for our nation’s founding commitment to equal justice for all. Our nation’s history is a continuing effort to live up to the Declaration of Independence’s vision of equality.  A lesson from our history is that when one of us is subject to illegal discrimination, we are all at risk.  This lesson is personal to me because of my family’s story.

To defend this commitment and work toward a time when all parents can feel safe about their children’s futures, we need a State Attorney General who will live up to Colorado Governor Ralph Carr’s historical example of refusing to intern Japanese-Americans. We need an Attorney General who will partner with and stand up for our immigrant communities—and one with the constitutional law and Supreme Court experience to win that fight. As Attorney General, I will challenge hate speech, stand up for diversity and inclusion, and fight for equal justice for all. I will also work tirelessly so that the youngest and most vulnerable among us are protected and so parents like myself can trust in the American ideal of freedom and opportunity for all.

Preventing Gun Violence

I still remember being in my home in Denver when I heard about the Columbine massacre and asking, “How could this happen?”  Today, our kids are asking “Where will this happen next?”  We have to do more, and we have to do better.

For my family, like many families, the March for our Lives was a powerful expression of the passion and commitment of young people today. Young people are teaching adults about bravery and true leadership to create change. During that march, I talked with high school students who are volunteering on my campaign about how I would address this issue as our next Attorney General. I also explained in a blog post and in a short video how I would lead on gun safety, defending and enforcing our current common sense gun laws, improving our laws, and working on other initiatives to prevent gun violence.

We cannot be complacent on this issue or accept the false claim that the Second Amendment prevents common sense gun safety measures. We have to fight for our children’s lives.

 Fighting Climate Change and Protecting Our Land, Air, and Water

The fight for our land, air, and water is about our children’s future and the world they will inherit from us. Our kids’ future is under attack from climate change. As a concerned parent, it is my duty to stand up for our land, air, and water and children’s future.

Our current Attorney General is failing on this important obligation, joining with Scott Pruitt’s agenda to undermine critical protections.  As I explained in a blog post on Earth Day, we need our Attorney General to stand up for Colorado and be strong enough to challenge the federal government when it fails us. Using my legal and leadership experience, that’s exactly what I will do as our next Attorney General. 

Empowering the Next Generation

My wife, Heidi, and I have engaged our children in this campaign and given them the opportunity to learn about our democracy and our state. It continues to be an inspiring experience that has changed our family forever.  I have visited all sixty-four counties, bringing one or both kids to many of them.  I brought my children on stage—with 3,500 engaged Democrats in the audience—for my speech at the State Assembly

Most importantly, my children joined me to listen to the citizens of Colorado, learning about your concerns, from the opioid epidemic to the lack of broadband Internet access to rising health care costs, and your dreams for a Colorado where everyone is treated equally and given a fair opportunity to succeed.  Those conversations will stay with me and my family, however this campaign turns out, making us better people and better citizens.  This engagement as a family—and as a father—will remain central to the campaign I will run to be Colorado’s next Attorney General.  Thanks to everyone who has joined us on this journey.


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.

* * *

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.  


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 and Family

Earth Day: Protecting Our Land, Air, and Water

Our next Attorney General needs to be a leader in protecting our land, air, and water. Over the last several years, our current Attorney General has undermined Colorado’s leadership in this area, seeking to undo the methane rule pioneered here in Colorado, providing bad legal advice to the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, threatening our state’s leadership in addressing climate change, and failing to protect our public lands.

We need and deserve an Attorney General who is committed to protecting our public health and environment for our children and grandchildren. I’m running to be Colorado’s next Attorney General to represent our next generation and take on this challenge. From talking to my kids, I know that they worry about the future of Colorado’s land, air, and water.  They expect today’s leaders to protect our natural resources and public health for future generations.

Colorado’s Leadership on Methane Emissions

In Colorado, we have our own way of doing things. We are innovative, collaborative, and we care deeply about our land, water, and air.  With regard to climate change, we are leaders in protecting our planet for future generations.  Guided by our Governor John Hickenlooper and the hard work from responsible leaders here in Colorado, we developed the framework that the Obama Administration adopted for regulating the methane emissions that come from oil and gas development.

Our current Attorney General is not one of these leaders. She has sided with former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and acted against Colorado’s interests.  First, she challenged the EPA methane rule after President Obama adopted it; more recently, when Scott Pruitt sought to scrap this federal framework, jeopardizing the quality of our land, air, and water, she refused to represent Colorado.  Consequently, our Governor had to hire private counsel to represent our State.  We deserve an Attorney General who will stand up to Scott Pruitt and protect our air quality.

Undermining Protections Against Unsafe Oil and Gas Development

In a recent case (Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, often referred to as “the Martinez case”), the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission confronted the question of how to interpret the mandate that oil and gas development in Colorado should be “regulated subject to the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.”  In the Martinez case, our Attorney General mistakenly instructed the Commission that it lacked the authority to consider the petition filed in this case.  The Court of Appeals told our Attorney General that she was wrong on the law and our Governor urged her to allow the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission to do its work under the proper legal standard that recognized that oil and gas development could be stopped when it harms the public health, safety, and environment.  Our Attorney General rejected that call, has doubled down on the AG’s office earlier bad legal advice, and has created legal confusion and delay by appealing the case to the Colorado Supreme Court.

We deserve an Attorney General who is committed to protecting the health and safety of our people.  It is wrong to place drilling for oil and gas above any and all public health, safety, and welfare considerations.  As Attorney General, I will provide proper legal advice to the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission and work collaboratively with localities on this important issue—not sue them as a political stunt, which is what our current Attorney General has done by suing Boulder County.

Supporting a Clean Energy Economy

In Colorado, we are national leaders in developing the foundation for a clean energy economy.  As such, when President Obama acted to enforce the Clean Air Act and to protect our way of life, Colorado embraced the goals of his “Clean Power Plan.” Similarly, with the United States as the only leading nation in the world to turn its back on the Paris Climate Accords, our Governor stepped up to make sure that Colorado could meet its goals.  But our Attorney General has not represented us on this issue; instead, she has joined with former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, first by challenging the Clean Power Plan after President Obama adopted it and then by supporting Scott Pruitt’s destructive actions when he acted to rescind the Clean Power Plan as EPA Administrator.

We in Colorado have long recognized that a changing climate threatens our Colorado way of life.  Climate change threatens to increase the length and severity of droughts, reduce crop yields, reduce snowpack, and increase the risk of wildfires and flooding.  Our skiing industry, for example, is vigilant on this issue and is working hard to ensure that we have skiing in Colorado for future generations.  To prepare for a clean energy future, we have taken action here in Colorado to reduce carbon pollution in ways that are right for us.  Most notably, we were the first state to pass a Renewable Energy Standard by popular vote in 2004, and we’ve since undertaken innovative policies like the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act of 2010.

In the early 2000s, a number of State Attorneys General called on the EPA to act to address the rising threat of climate change.  In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled for those AGs, declaring that the EPA had a duty to regulate carbon emissions.  During the Obama administration, the EPA adopted the Clean Power Plan, which provides flexibility to the states to develop pollution-reduction strategies that work for them.  Because Colorado is a national leader in preparing for a clean energy economy, we were particularly well positioned to meet both the interim and final goals of the Clean Power Plan, and welcomed this step forward.

Despite our nation’s pressing need to reduce our carbon pollution and prevent the disastrous impacts of climate change, the EPA is moving to rescind the Clean Power Plan. But a number of State Attorneys General, including some from states who brought the landmark Massachusetts v. EPA case, are not going to give up without a fight. Our Attorney General, however, is not representing Colorado’s interest in moving toward a clean energy economy, failing to act, for example, when Scott Pruitt declared that he would undermine the existing fuel economy standards.  We deserve better.

Keeping Our Public Lands Public

In Colorado, we care deeply about our public lands, which provide natural beauty, a basis of our outdoor recreational economy, and protect local ecosystems.  Unfortunately, the United States’ Department of Interior is not committed to protecting public lands--and keeping them public. Consider, for example, the case of Bear's Ears in Utah, where the Trump Administration is attempting to radically reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument. This action is a blow against our public lands, a violation of the Antiquities Act, and an act of disrespect against the Native American tribes who pushed for the designation. A number of State AGs are challenging this action in court, but Colorado’s AG has failed to do so.  Similarly, when the Interior Department has raised the prospect of developing part of the Great Sand Dunes National Park to oil and gas drilling, our AG has failed to stand up for Colorado. We need an AG who will protect and defend our public lands.

Representing Our Next Generation

The future of our air, land, and water should not be negotiable.  We have a moral commitment to our next generation to protect their health, safety, and welfare.  If we don’t act now to protect our natural resources, ensure that oil and gas drilling is safe, act to address climate change, and keep our public lands public, our children will not forgive us—and we should not forgive ourselves.  We cannot afford an Attorney General who joins Scott Pruitt to undermine important protections.  We deserve an Attorney General who works with leaders across our state to continue making progress in addressing climate change and protecting our land, air, and water.  Please join my campaign and spread the word about why we need an Attorney General who will do just that.


Phil's Family

A Nation of Immigrants (with video)

We often refer to our country as “a nation of immigrants.”  For me, this concept is personal—my mom came to the United States in 1951 as a refugee, after being born in a Nazi concentration camp at the end of World War II.  My grandparents and my mom came here because of America’s commitment to freedom and opportunity for all.  Unfortunately, President Trump’s approach to immigration—including his termination of the DACA program that protected the DREAMers—threatens the foundation of what makes our nation great.  To protect our immigrants and develop a sound immigration policy at this time in our history, we need engaged citizens and responsible leaders to step forward.  I’m running for Attorney General to be one of those leaders.

During Barack Obama’s Presidency, Congress failed to pass the sort of comprehensive and sensible immigration reform that our country desperately needs and that our Senator Michael Bennet spearheaded with the bipartisan Gang of Eight.  In the wake of that failed effort, President Obama used his executive authority—and his discretion on how to enforce our laws—to make a commitment to eligible children of undocumented immigrants: they could continue to be productive members of our society and not have to live in the shadows.  These are kids who were brought here by their parents, and many cannot recall living anywhere other than in the United States. This program, the “Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals,” or DACA, enjoys wide support and makes powerful economic sense

President Trump’s decision to end DACA threatens the livelihood of hard-working individuals who have only known life here in the United States. It threatens to force them back into the shadows.  It also hurts our nation by breaking a commitment to immigrants who trusted our government to keep its word, creating a self-inflicted economic wound and causing fear and disruption for hundreds of thousands of young people in jobs, in the military, or in school.  Unfortunately, our dysfunctional Congress has failed to act in the wake of President Trump’s ending of the program.

Even with a dysfunctional Congress and a President all too willing to play political football with the DREAMers, we cannot lose hope.  Notably, a number of State Attorneys General—but not ours—have thus far had success in their challenges against  the Trump Administration’s ending of the DACA program. To date, their lawsuit and the injunction against the Trump Administration provides critical protections to the DREAMers at this time.  Here in Colorado, we need an Attorney General committed to supporting the DREAMers and working with our institutions, including our colleges and schools, to ensure that they are treated fairly.

The Trump Administration is now seeking to enlist states and cities in its effort to deport law-abiding members of our communities.  In a display of responsible leadership, Denver is refusing to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in targeting undocumented individuals when they, for example, appear in court to testify about crimes. Unfortunately, President Trump is pushing an inhumane policy that threatens to make us less safe by intimidating potential witnesses in our criminal justice system.

As our next Attorney General, I will defend decisions by our state, our cities, and our counties to refuse to cooperate with DHS in deporting law-abiding members of our communities. I will also join other State Attorneys General to challenge the Trump Administration’s unconstitutional discrimination against Muslims seeking to immigrate to the United States.  So far, our federal courts have stopped the Trump travel ban from taking full effect.  Our Attorney General, unfortunately, has refused to join with other State Attorneys General to protect our nation’s tradition of welcoming immigrants regardless of their country of origin, religion, race, or economic background.

* * *

Our nation’s greatness owes a lot to our welcoming attitude toward immigrants from around the world who come here to share their talent and hard work and to benefit from our freedoms and economic opportunity.  My family has lived this experience.  As Attorney General, I will fight for the humane and welcoming treatment of our immigrants, including DACA recipients and undocumented individuals living here productively.  And I will be one of the State Attorneys General standing up against religious discrimination of those seeking to immigrate here.