Close Up Of Gavel Resting On Its Sounding Block

The Public Trust Institute Monday sent a letter to Attorney General Phil Weiser challenging his choice for the assistant attorney general who will represent the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Attorney Joel Minor, the institute said in a letter obtained by Colorado Politics, "maintains a personal and professional bias against oil and gas development, creating a clear legal conflict of interest."

Minor previously worked for San Francisco-based Earthjustice, formerly the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. Earthjustice, the institute said, claims its purpose is to stop oil and gas development, and that oil and gas drilling is "destroying our air, water and health."

The conflict of interest, according to the Institute, stems from Senate Bill 19-181, which defines a conflict of interest as "serving in an official capacity with an entity that educates or advocates for or against oil and gas activity."

However, that section of the law applies to commissioners, not to attorneys.

Minor has directly advocated for the COGCC to take specific positions that would be adverse to oil and gas development, Staiert wrote. 

And Minor became a lawyer specifically to fight the oil and gas industry, Staiert said, citing an undated Stanford profile. "I decided to go to law school to protect the health of communities that I cared about from the harmful health and environmental impacts of oil and gas development," the profile said.

"It defies logic that he could be appointed to advise the COGCC in a legal capacity. An assistant attorney general should not be placed in such an ethically compromised position and immediate action is necessary to resolve this legal conflict of interest," Staiert wrote.

Staiert is running as a Republican candidate for Senate District 27 in Centennial. 

The Attorney General's office has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The Public Trust Institute was founded in 2018 by former Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, and days later filed two complaints against Gov. John Hickenlooper with the state's Independent Ethics Commission. The complaints centered around the institute's claim that Hickenlooper had illegally accepted travel and related expenses for trips to Italy, Texas, Wyoming, New York and Connecticut.

Hickenlooper has called the complaints frivolous and a "political stunt."

Those complaints are scheduled for a formal hearing with the commission on March 24 and 25. 

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