Gordon Pedrow

Longmont’s home rule charter is under assault

Where's council?

Where’s council?

Longmont’s Home Rule City Charter is the foundational document for the city government of Longmont. The charter can be amended only when a majority of Longmont voters approve a change. Section 3.7 of the charter states, “Each councilman shall take an oath or affirmation before entering upon the duties of his office, that he will support the Constitution of the United States and the state of Colorado, and the charter and ordinances of the city of Longmont, and faithfully perform the duties of his office”.

We are rapidly approaching a time when current members of the city council will be tested regarding their sworn oath to support the city charter. On July 24, a Boulder County District Judge issued an adverse ruling against the citizens initiated charter change banning the use of hydraulic fracturing within the city limits. The judge stayed her ruling pending an appeal to a higher court. Council members who vote to defend our home rule charter by appealing this lower court decision will fulfill their oath. Those who oppose appealing the decision will be voting to capitulate to the oil and gas industry, hardly an act that supports the city charter.

The city charter provision under assault is the one initiated by citizens in 2012 when they became convinced the city council was not adequately protecting the residents’ health, safety and quality of life, all of which were threatened by the toxic industrial operations of the oil and gas industry. Ballot question 300 was approved by 60 percent of the voters. At the time, several members of the city council actively campaigned against passage of the amendment.

Longmont citizens should be aware that their city charter is under assault by the oil and gas industry, by Gov. Hickenlooper and by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). The assault began immediately after Longmont residents approved ballot question 300. Gov. Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission immediately joined the oil and gas industry in a lawsuit to overturn the citizens’ vote. The same duo of players initiated a lawsuit against the city council for adopting an ordinance in June 2012 imposing additional safety regulations on the industry.

These powerful and well funded players are  determined to smash any ordinance or charter provision that attempts to reasonably regulate the oil and gas industry within Longmont’s corporate limits.
It is up to Longmont residents to clearly communicate to their elected council members that the city charter belongs to the people, not to the council. Residents need to remind their elected representatives that they, not the council, initiated and supported this charter amendment while overcoming nearly $500,000 in oil and gas industry propaganda opposing the initiative.

I encourage any city council member who has not had an up close exposure to the devastating impacts of toxic oil and gas operations on residential neighborhoods to travel to Greeley, Erie, Firestone or Frederick. For those who believe Gov. Hickenlooper’s propaganda about Colorado’s “toughest regulations in the nation” protects everyone, check out the neighborhood in Greeley where the COGCC recently approved permits for 67 wells within 350 feet of Frontier Elementary School.

Fortunately, the Mineral Corporation reconsidered drilling on the permitted site after neighborhood residents expressed outrage. However, Hickenlooper’s COGCC did nothing to protect the neighborhood or school children.

Longmont’s Home Rule Charter can be amended only when residents vote to amend it. Until that happens, each member of the Longmont City Council is expected to faithfully perform the duties of their office. Longmont residents expect council members to uphold their oath to support the charter and they will be held accountable at the ballot box if they fail. Any elected official hoping to use “it is too expensive to keep appealing” as an excuse to abandon the defense of the city charter needs to check with the city attorney regarding how much of the work has already been done for appealing this issue all of the way to the Supreme Court. Of course, if the district court’s decision is overturned, it will be expensive to prepare for trial to defend the fracking ban. However, if council members do not believe in fighting to defend the voter- approved city charter, why did they run for city council and swear to support it?

Gordon Pedrow is a former Longmont city manager.

Elect candidates who stand against fracking

Cast your ballot for those who will best protect Longmont's right to local control.

Vote, checked with red pencilAs we approach municipal elections Nov. 5, I believe it is critical that voters understand where each candidate stands regarding two lawsuits the city is currently defending. Although each lawsuit pertains to the community’s ability to regulate oil and gas operations within its corporate boundaries, each resulted from a separate approach to address foundational principles of local government in Colorado.

Home rule, citizen initiative and local control are key concepts found in the Colorado Constitution, the Longmont city charter and in years of practical application. The reason these basic principles of government are so critical is simple. When properly applied, they put key decisions about local communities in the hands of the people most heavily impacted, local residents. Under our charter, the citizens elect the City Council, which has the obligation to adopt appropriate policies to protect our health, environment and quality of life. This includes appropriate regulations for all land uses.

If and when residents do not believe the elected city council members are appropriately protecting the community, citizens have the right to initiate appropriate actions. This is what happened in 2012 regarding oil and gas operations. The ability to adopt appropriate land use regulations is a basic right of home rule cities in Colorado and a fundamental expectation of citizens. As you will see below, the primary opponents of local oil and gas land use regulations in Longmont are Gov. John Hickenlooper and the multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry. That is why city council elections this year are absolutely critical.

The first lawsuit is an attempt to thwart the city council’s right to reasonably regulate land uses in Longmont. It was filed by Gov. Hickenlooper via his industry-dominated Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). The oil and gas industry quickly joined the governor’s legal action so that it could throw its deep pockets of cash into the fight to have the state, not the city council, regulate oil and gas operations within Longmont.

The governor felt compelled to take legal action against our community because a majority of the Longmont City Council dared to enact land use regulations that prohibit oil/gas operations, including hydraulic fracturing, within residential neighborhoods and requires these operations to be at least 750 feet from schools, hospitals and day care centers. Since the governor finds these rather timid Longmont regulations to be too restrictive of the heavy oil and gas industry, it verifies how little protection he believes our citizens deserve.

As of today, the city is vigorously defending its home rule rights to reasonably regulate the heavy industrial activities associated with oil and gas operations. However, a future city council could stop defending this lawsuit and capitulate to the governor and the industry. At least one candidate, mayoral challenger Bryan Baum, has publicly stated that he is in favor of settling this lawsuit. If you believe in local control, you need to know where the other candidates stand.

The second lawsuit stems from 2012, when a group of Longmont residents became convinced that a majority of the elected city council was not adequately protecting the community from the impacts of oil and gas operations. The citizens initiated a city charter amendment that prohibits fracking operations within the city boundaries. Approximately 60 percent of the voters agreed with the amendment last November and it is now a part of the city charter. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) promptly filed legal action challenging Longmont’s city charter. The governor quickly joined forces with the industry.

I hope you see the pattern of state government and industry joining forces to attack local control. The opponents of local control hope that the combination of the power of state government and the deep pockets of a politically connected industry will intimidate small communities and citizens. They think bullying local government serves their interests. It will not work in Longmont if we elect the right city council members.

Both of these lawsuits address important local control issues; therefore, they must both be vigorously defended. The one addresses the powers of a home rule city as provided for in the Colorado constitution. The other defends the right of citizens to initiate charter amendments or legislation when their elected representatives fail to act appropriately. These rights and powers of our local community are in the hands of the next city council. I encourage each voter to understand the candidates’ position and cast your ballot for the ones who will best protect our community.

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

 

Re-elect Dennis Coombs as Longmont’s mayor

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

With elections only a few weeks away, I would like to share a few reasons why I believe our city has been well served by Dennis Coombs and why we should re-elect him for a second term. During his first term, Dennis has provided inclusive, competent leadership for the City Council. Consequently, the council has mostly conducted the public’s business in the amicable fashion our community deserves. This is in sharp contrast to how the council operated prior to Dennis’ election.

Mayor Coombs did a superb job of leading the City Council’s deliberations regarding Longmont’s regulation of oil and gas operations within the city’s corporate boundaries. All voices were heard, but Dennis kept the focus on our city’s role as a home-rule city. The final regulations approved by the City Council were reasonable and appropriate to preserve Longmont’s land-use authority and to protect residential neighborhoods. Dennis has appropriately fought for our city’s homerule authority and is now leading the fight against the governor and the oil and gas lobbyists’ attempts to bully our community via lawsuits. Do not let the rhetoric of Dennis’ mayoral opponent distract us from this very critical legal battle.

The flood of 2013 is the final reason I support Mayor Coombs for a second term. The flooding of the past weeks has been devastating for our community. In times of crisis, calm leadership makes the difference. Mayor Coombs has displayed superior leadership throughout this tragic event. He has performed his role quietly and competently, all the time allowing the trained, professional emergency managers to do their jobs unimpeded. This is real leadership.

The above items are just a few of the reasons I encourage all eligible voters to help re-elect Mayor Dennis Coombs.

Gordon Pedrow is the former City Manager of Longmont – FRL

Hickenlooper / COGCC overreach in lawsuit

Longmont’s rules are legal and make good common sense.

The state legislative session has ended, with oil and gas drilling impacts on our communities still largely unaddressed — in no small part due to the active resistance of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration. Even more concerning, the Governor continues to actively undermine the efforts of local governments to respond to the growing citizen outcry against fracking and other industrial activities in their neighborhood
Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

For example, last year the governor sued the city of Longmont, where I was city manager for 19 years, for adopting local oil and gas rules to protect its citizens. While I appreciate Gov. Hickenlooper’s characterization of the lawsuit as “a last resort,” I want to explain why Longmont’s rules are legal and make good common sense.

Longmont didn’t take the task of adopting new oil and gas rules lightly. The City Council acted because state rules under the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) were insufficient to protect our community. The council carefully crafted an ordinance that would safeguard the health and welfare of Longmont citizens and promote industry accountability and responsibility. Working with its most active oil and gas company, the city negotiated an operator agreement that went beyond COGCC requirements. Notably, while the governor sued Longmont for its new rules, the local oil and gas operator did not.

The new regulations prevent oil and gas development within residential neighborhoods, and require drilling to be a reasonable distance from occupied structures to better protect residents from noxious fumes, chemical spills, and dangerous and noisy truck traffic. Separating industrial uses from homes, schools, and nursing homes is part of the fundamental zoning role that local governments play.

When Longmont passed its rules, COGCC regulations allowed new oil and gas wells to be as close as 350 feet from homes in high-occupancy residential areas and 150 feet from homes in rural areas. Those “setbacks” applied whether there was one well or 22 planned for a site. Longmont residents were concerned about the health of children and seniors and the livability of their neighborhoods. The City Council increased the setbacks to 750 feet from homes and allowed for comprehensive review of multiwell sites to ensure they are located appropriately with respect to traffic and adjacent land uses. In response, Gov. Hickenlooper sued Longmont, stating the ordinance was “preempted” by the state.

COGCC rules require that toxic chemicals used in fracking be disclosed to the state 60 days after the operation has been completed. Since most accidents happen when chemicals are being transported or during the fracking process, the Council opted to increase safety for residents and emergency responders by requiring that chemicals be disclosed prior to trucking them through our neighborhoods and pumping them underground. The COGCC is suing for this, too.

The COGCC is also suing Longmont for trying to prevent facilities within the city limits from being an eyesore — such as requiring that tanks be painted and well heads be screened by landscaping. Why is the state threatened by this? The city of Greeley has had a similar requirement in its land use code for years.

Hickenlooper 2The governor accuses Longmont’s use of its zoning authority as a “taking” of private property. Yet, reasonable zoning restrictions — such as those to protect public health — have never been considered a taking by the courts. That is probably why the state is not suing Longmont for a “takings” — even though that is the governor’s rationale.

Applying local zoning to oil and gas development is common. Just look to the birthplaces of the industry: Texas allows municipalities to set their own setback rules; Pennsylvania allows local governments to apply their zoning authority to oil and gas development; and Oklahoma allows its municipalities to ban oil and gas development within their borders. Yet, these states aren’t suffering from an “uneven patchwork of regulations.”

Zoning industrial land uses inside the city is within Longmont’s authority as a home rule city. From mining operations to marijuana dispensaries, barber shops to breweries, local governments have the authority and responsibility to regulate land use to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare. Oil and gas development should be no different.

The oil and gas industry is booming in Colorado. Responsible development of the industry is appropriate. However, responsible does not mean steamrolling the citizens of Longmont. Longmont’s future should be dictated by the needs of its community, not the desires of the industry or the governor. One thing we all agree with the governor on: “Our ultimate responsibility is to protect people.”

I hope the governor will rethink his approach and work with local officials to ensure Longmont remains a great place to live.

Gordon L. Pedrow is a former city manager of Longmont.

TOP Operating: Flagrant, serial COGCC rule violator

Editor’s Note: The following testimony was given to the Colorado Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Energy Committee on March 21, 2013, by Gordon Pedrow. SB 13-202 concerns additional inspection of oil and gas facilities. SB 13-202 advanced out of committee to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Mr. Chairman and Committee members.

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

Thank you for this opportunity to be heard regarding this important matter.  I am Gordon Pedrow, a twenty year resident of the city of Longmont.  Until I retired on April 1, 2012, I served the community for 19 years as city manager.  I am here to share with you why many Longmont families support SB 13-202.  I am certain you are aware that the state government in Colorado is experiencing a massive hemorrhage of trust when it comes to adequately regulating oil and gas operations.

The citizens of Longmont have been struggling for many months to protect their health and quality of life from the negative impacts of heavy industrial activities associated with oil and gas operations.  This battle began in 2011 when the TOP Operating Company began the process of permitting a new multi-well drilling site within the city’s corporate limits.

Using the COGCC’s online data base, citizens examined the inspection and enforcement record of the two existing wells within the Longmont city limits that were closest to residential areas.  The results were appalling.

In 2011, Both Rider #1 and the Stamp wells had numerous unresolved violations, including benzene contaminated ground water 100’s of times above state standards.  I am going to provide the committee some specific information about Rider #1 and  its operator, TOP OPERATING COMPANY.  I believe this information will clearly demonstrate why residents were appalled in 2011 and remain so today.  It will clearly demonstrate why passage of SB 13-202 is a necessary first step in appropriately regulating this industry and restoring public trust.

RIDER WELL #1: 350 feet from homes in the Quail Crossing subdivision, 350 feet from Trail Ridge Middle School

  1. July 17, 2006, Engle Homes to COGCC (TOP’s contaminated well on Engle’s property)
  2. July 21, 2006, COGCC to TOP Operating:  Provide site Investigation and Site Remediation Plan
  3. December 7, 2006  Notice of Alleged Violation (200100371)  Numerous violations
  4. 4.     (nothing done for a year) TOP and COGCC staff failed to accomplish anything.  Both ignored the owner, Engle Homes and residents rights to have safe operation
  5. December, 2007  Engle Homes again found violations not corrected
  6. September 2008  COGCC fined TOP $10,000 for failure to remediate
  7. March 30, 2009  Still Benzene problem

2011Public scrutiny of both TOP and COGCC performance begins by angry Longmont residents.  (You would think a state agency might try harder when citizens are engaged) However, the concerns of the citizens were still ignored by TOP and COGCC.  Both the regulators and the regulated act as though they are above the citizens!!!!

  1. January 24, 2012 Notice of Alleged Violation (1771570) Rules 210d, 301, 308A, 308B,309,603j,604d,906a
  2. February 22, 2013, COGCC  issued a Notice of Order finding Violation and Hearing set for March 25/26   COGCC staff is seeking an order finding violation of all the above rules and imposition of a fine not to exceed $85,000.
  3. 10.                         March 21, 2013.  (today) TOP still in violation & Benzene levels still out of compliance.

SETTLEMENT:  The most appalling COGCC document regarding this whole Rider Well #1 fiasco has now come to light.  For over 6 years, TOP OPERATING COMPANY has flagrantly disregarded COGCC orders and the COGCC has ignored its mandate to protect public health and the environment.  Now the regulators and regulated have gotten together for a sweetheart settlement deal as outlined in this Administrative Order by Consent now scheduled for March 25/26.

Despite flagrant, serial, multi-year violations of state rules and regulations, the COGCC staff has now agreed to three unbelievable provisions.

   Read these sections from the consent order. 4,6,8

Unfortunately, this ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER BY CONSENT does not deal with the benzene in the ground water within 350 feet of Trail Ridge Middle School.  That matter is still being mitigated !!

I encourage you to pass SB 13-202.  Furthermore, before this legislative session adjourns, I encourage you to carefully review the entire regulatory operations of the COGCC.  Because more inspectors inserted into a flawed agency culture will most likely be wasted resources.

Some call them banks. We call them criminals.

Photo courtesy http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1136585In case you failed to notice, 2012 ended just like it began for many global too-big-to-fail banks: scandalously. Too-big-to-fail banks are those entities deemed so large that their failure could plunge the global economy into depression. Many of these players are the ones that allowed greed and compulsive gambling with borrowed money to nearly wreck the global financial system in 2008. Saving the system required U.S. taxpayers to bail out numerous big U.S. banks. Unfortunately, since the bailouts, these behemoths have become even larger, with more concentrated power over the global financial system. Therefore, too-big-to-fail banks are an even larger threat to international financial stability than in 2008. After you read the next paragraph, it will be clear that as they have become larger, the too-big-to-fail banks have also become too big to indict, even for the most egregious illegal and fraudulent behavior.

For those of you who have not followed the long parade of big banks that agreed to pay fines to avoid prosecution in 2012, here is a small sample of names, settlement amounts and offenses for which they settled. As you recognize these well-known names, remember, these are the large financial institutions on which the global financial system depends for economic growth and stability. The following are listed in the chronological order in which the settlements occurred: 1. Bank America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Bank ($26 billion), fraudulent foreclosure practices; 2. Citigroup ($158 million) and Bank of America ($1 billion), misleading the Department of Housing and Urban Development; 3. Deutsche Bank ($200 million), misleading HUD; 4. ING ($619 million), money laundering; 5. Barclays ($450 million), interest rate rigging; 6. Capital One ($210 million), deceptive marketing credit cards; 7. Standard Chartered Bank of England ($340 million), laundering money for Iran and lying to regulators; 8. Bank America ($2.43 billion), misleading investors; 9. Goldman Sachs ($12 million), a “pay to play” scheme with a public official; 10. JPMorgan and Credit Suisse ($417 million), bundling and selling troubled mortgages to investors; 11. HSBC ($1.9 billion), money laundering for drug traffickers and terrorist institutions; 12. Morgan Stanley ($5 million), violating securities laws; and 13. UBS ($1.5 billion), manipulating interest rates. Only UBS was forced to admit guilt as part of its settlement. Although the settlement agreement shielded its charter to operate, UBS admitted guilt for a single act of felony wire fraud on behalf of its Japanese subsidiary. The remaining offenders were allowed to settle without admission or denial of guilt. Many of these banks are recidivists.

Prosecutors in the Justice Department and other bank regulators chose to settle these cases instead of prosecuting for fear conviction might cause the banks to fail, thus triggering a collapse of the global financial system. Therefore, with a slap on the wrist, the too-big-to-fail banks were not held accountable for charges of fraud, misleading federal regulators, money laundering, interest rate manipulation, deceptive marketing, misleading investors and violating securities laws. With prosecution off the table, big banks have no incentive to change their behavior. Settlement payments are just another cost of doing business. The U.S. banks named above were all considered too big to fail in 2008, so they received billions of dollars in TARP bailout support. These same banks are now spending huge sums to ferociously resist reasonable regulation under the Dodd-Frank financial reform act.

Since the global financial system is so dependent on a small group of large, interconnected banks (oligopolists) that are too big to fail, indict or prosecute, these institutions have no fear of being held accountable for the most egregious acts of lawlessness and fraudulent behavior. Therefore, they are too big to exist in their current form and must be right-sized into smaller entities. A large number of right-sized banks will ensure a vigorous, competitive financial sector that can efficiently provide the wide range of financial products necessary to support business formation and job creation. Officials at the big banks claim their institutions must be gargantuan to efficiently finance the economy. Empirical data to support such claims is hard to find; however, proof that too-big-to-fail banks are detrimental to global financial stability is abundant. Numerous banks agreeing to pay millions or billions of dollars to settle charges of outrageous illegal behavior in 2012 alone is quite telling. Until we eliminate too-big-to-fail banks, the world will constantly be on the edge of the next greed-induced financial calamity like we experienced in 2008.

Why I support Longmont Ballot Question 300

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

The advertisement blitz against Ballot Question 300 is in full force. Although some may be impressed to see seven former mayors standing in unison against Question 300, voters are not getting the whole story from the slick, multicolor brochures and full-page newspaper ads. The blitz’s message is clear. Trust the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to adequately protect Longmont residents from oil and gas operations, including hydraulic fracturing. Unfortunately, mountains of evidence exist to show how ineptly the COGCC regulates the industry.

Opponents of Question 300 want you to believe it was placed before the voters by “activists with an agenda.” This is not the case. It is the result of more than 8,000 of our friends and neighbors expressing their concerns about their health, the environment and Longmont’s quality of life.

I will vote “yes” on Question 300 for several reasons. If you doubt the veracity of any of my reasons, you should do your own research with the COGCC and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment or listen to the tapes of the COGCC Setback Review Stakeholder Group Meetings (February-September 2012).

The first reason I will vote “yes” should shame every official ever associated with COGCC. As unbelievable as it is, the COGCC’s setback regulations are not based on any standard aimed at protecting public health. The setback requirements are based on the distance fire officials believe is needed in case of a catastrophic safety issue such as rig collapse, explosion or fire.

The second reason I will vote “yes” is equally alarming. On June 14, I witnessed representatives from the CDPHE repeatedly say they have no way of knowing what negative health impacts may arise from toxic air emissions from oil and gas operations, including fracking, since they have insufficient scientific data on which to make a determination. It gets worse. At the same meeting, the CDPHE staff stated they had no plans to collect additional scientific data because neither the governor nor a majority of the state Legislature support funding scientific studies. It is incredible — millions of dollars in royalty payments received by the state, but no funds to conduct health research! However, have you noticed how frequently the governor and opponents of Question 300 proclaim that since there is no scientific proof that oil and gas operations are damaging our health, the operations must be safe? I refuse to accept such an illogical approach to public policy. I believe absent scientific data showing that these heavy industrial activities can safely operate within our cities, they should be banned or regulated by local governments.

The third reason I will vote “yes” is because on Aug. 15, while speaking to the oil and gas industry in Denver, Gov. Hickenlooper finally admitted there was a need for new initiatives to regulate oil and gas operations. His proposed initiatives include: well-bore integrity, water sampling, fugitive methane emissions and setbacks from densely populated areas. We all know that if the governor really thought the state regulations were defensible, he would not upset this friends in the oil and gas industry. On Oct. 1, the COGCC publicly acknowledged the inadequacy of its regulations and voted 6-1 to initiate a rulemaking process regarding: groundwater sampling, groundwater monitoring and setback requirements. At last, the state agency that has coddled the oil and gas industry for decades recognized that regulations are inadequate to protect communities from the oil and gas invasion. However, even with these admitted failures, the governor and opponents still want us to trust the COGCC.

I do not personally think Ballot Question 300 is the ideal method to address the legitimate concerns residents have regarding potential health, environmental and quality of life issues. The ideal solution would come from the COGCC in the form of adequate regulations based on scientific data followed by vigorous enforcement of the regulations. Unfortunately, the COGCC has repeatedly failed to carry out its legislative mandates. When the state fails, the next logical place to expect action is from the Longmont City Council. However, a majority of council members refuse to adopt comprehensive oil and gas regulations. Fortunately, our state Constitution provides a path for residents to follow when their elected officials fail to act responsibly. Ballot Question 300 is their first step in a movement to hold elected officials accountable for adopting appropriate oil and gas regulations based on scientific data.

I will vote “yes” on Ballot Question 300.

Gordon Pedrow is a former city manager of Longmont.

Longmont voters entitled to Home Rule

Editor’s Note: Gordon Pedrow served as Longmont City Manger for 18 years prior to his retirement in March of 2012.

Nov. 6 is Election Day. Be sure to cast your ballot for the sake of your city, county, state and nation. Tucked in amongst the myriad partisan races is Longmont Ballot Question 300. This question is worthy of your careful scrutiny because it is a proposed charter amendment.

Is this what you want in Longmont?

Ballot Question 300 deserves careful attention for several reasons: It will amend the city charter, it is an important public health and quality-of-life issue, and it was initiated by thousands of your friends and neighbors. Usually, we look to the City Council to appropriately act to protect citizens from negative impacts of heavy industrial activity. However, when a majority of our elected representatives fail to carry out their responsibilities, the city charter and state constitution provide means by which the citizens can initiate actions they believe necessary to protect their community.

Beginning last November, the City Council studied how best to regulate the negative impacts of oil and gas operations within Longmont. This is an industry that is poorly regulated and coddled by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency charged with regulating its operations in order to protect public health and the environment. Until June, when it came time for the City Council to adopt its comprehensive regulations, it appeared that most council members were in favor of acting to protect the community from oil and gas operations. However, at the last moment, under extreme pressure from the industry’s big-money lobbyists and state politicians, a majority of the City Council capitulated to the industry and refused to support comprehensive regulations. When it really counted, only Mayor Coombs and council members Levison and Bagley were willing to adopt adequate comprehensive regulations to protect Longmont residents. Most citizens would agree that an appropriately regulated oil and gas industry can be a win for everyone.

After it became obvious that the City Council majority would approve only a weak, watered-down set of regulations, a group of citizens opted to circulate petitions to amend the charter as proposed in Ballot Question 300. More than 8,000 citizens signed the petitions. All registered voters can now have a direct say in the outcome of the proposed amendment.

This issue deserves your careful attention now for a couple of reasons. First, you need to understand what it says so that you can assess whether or not it reflects what is best for our community. Second, you should examine the merits of the amendment prior to the misinformation tsunami that will soon be launched by the oil and gas industry, along with affiliated special interests, as they try to persuade you to vote no on 300. (Do you remember the hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of propaganda our community received from the cable industry when Longmont voters were considering home-rule control of telecommunication matters?) I encourage all residents to study the issues early so that you can adequately assess the veracity of information provided by both sides. Because the citizens who initiated the proposed amendment will have meager resources, it will no doubt be a very lopsided campaign.

It is easy to anticipate a few attack lines you can expect to hear from the well-funded opposition. These include: The industry will sue; Longmont has a representative form of government, so it is a City Council matter; the COGCC adequately regulates the oil and gas industry; and finally, Colorado has the most stringent oil and gas regulations in the nation.

As the attack ads appear, consider the following questions: Do you want to capitulate just because a multi-billion-dollar industry wants to resist adequate regulation and threatens to sue if it fails to get its way? If a majority of our elected representatives fail to protect our health, safety and the environment, doesn’t the city charter and state constitution provide a means for citizens to act? If the COGCC regulations are adequate, why did the governor on Aug. 15 tell the industry that new regulations are necessary for the industry’s “integrity and trust” and that citizens’ concerns about fracking must be addressed? Finally, do we care how stringent Colorado regulations are if they do not adequately protect public health, safety and the environment? Just last month, the governor admitted the state’s regulations are not adequate.

Voters, the issue belongs to you. Do your homework and cast your ballot.

Hey, Gov! Which mouth are we to believe?

Editor’s Note: Gordon Pedrow served as Longmont City Manger for 18 years prior to his retirement in March of 2012.

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

I have found newspaper coverage about the recent oil and gas association conference in Denver somewhat baffling. On Wednesday, Aug. 15, the governor spoke at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual conference. The Times-Call ran articles covering the speech on both Thursday and Friday with these headlines: “Hickenlooper says Longmont drilling rules must be challenged,” and “Gov. Hickenlooper: Drilling regulations need more work.”

It would appear that the governor was speaking out of both sides of his mouth last week.

Out of one side of his mouth, Gov. Hickenlooper outlined a new set of state initiatives to oversee oil and gas operations to create “integrity and trust” in energy development in our state. According to the article, the focus of the initiatives includes: well-bore integrity, water sampling, fugitive methane emissions and setbacks from densely populated areas. He also remarked that public concern about hydraulic fracturing must be addressed.

After catching his breath, the governor then spoke out of the other side of his mouth. At that point, Gov. Hickenlooper threatened to take the city of Longmont to court to quash its recently adopted comprehensive oil and gas drilling regulations. He stated that the Longmont City Council should accept his word that the state rules governing oil and gas regulations have sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of local communities. These are the same rules that, when speaking out of the other side of his mouth, he said must be revised to bring “integrity and trust to the industry.”

Only a politician would even attempt to sell such convoluted logic to the public. There is no doubt in my mind which entity (state of Colorado or city of Longmont) I want protecting the health and environment in my community. The governor threatening to use the courts to keep the elected Longmont City Council from protecting its residents is unconscionable.