An attorney for six young people who want the state to impose tougher safeguards on the energy industry told the Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday that the law requires regulators to protect public health from the hazards of drilling.
A lawyer for the state countered that regulators acted properly when they rejected a request for stronger health protections on the grounds that they did not have the authority to impose them.
The justices heard oral arguments in the high-stakes case but did not say when they would rule.
The case revolves around how much weight energy regulators should give public health and the environment — a contentious issue in Colorado, where cities often overlap lucrative oil and gas fields and drilling rigs sit within sight of homes and schools.
The six young plaintiffs in the case asked the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, which regulates the industry, to enact a rule that would require energy companies to show they would not harm human health or the environment before regulators issued a drilling permit.
The commission responded that it did not have that authority. Commission members said Colorado law required them to balance public safety with responsible oil and gas production.
Colorado Solicitor General Frederick R. Yarger, representing the attorney general's office, told the Supreme Court that the commission correctly interpreted state law to mean it must consider other factors in addition to public health.