Tag Archive for Gordon Pedrow

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

 

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.

Change: It comes from the bottom up

The deaths in Connecticut brought back the pain many of us have experienced after the death of a child. How much more is that pain when not only your child died but also the children of many of your friends and friends of your children? Those of us who have lost more than one relative to gun violence are sensitized to these violent events.

The responses to this and similar events have raised broader issues.

 

We the PeopleShould large corporations, organizations and people with large amounts of money be able to have more influence than individuals? Should partisan efforts be allowed to limit which U.S. citizens can actually vote? Can we get to the point where people with differing views stop talking past each other? Even within groups of largely like-minded individuals, there is too often disrespect for opposite views on specific issues.

The various responses to mass killings tell a lot about our society. I understand why many people want to own guns. The NRA’s callous response and the repetition of trite slogans have not helped at all. The NRA once supported a ban on assault weapons. Comments about not arming mental health patients, while appropriate, will not be effective. In Connecticut and New York, the weapons were bought by other people. There seems to be a fear that banning assault weapons or large magazines will be a step to ban all firearms. This is an unrealistic concern. The Arizona sheriff recruiting 500 armed volunteers to patrol around schools is much different from having trained and seasoned law enforcement officers, who have even recently killed bystanders. An effective solution requires listening to all positions.

As discussed in the Jan. 2 guest opinion by Gordon Pedrow, big money institutions have the ability to frequently negatively impact all of us, with practical impunity for those running these companies.

Several years ago the CEOs of the largest tobacco companies and large petroleum companies clearly lied to Congress. (Congress does, however, pursue athletes for lying.) Listen to the ads from the American Petroleum Institute and the natural gas industry. When they do not lie, they omit important information.

The banks and mortgage companies allowed home loans to be made that were guaranteed to fail then passed the cost on to others and eventually the taxpayers. Several banks have just agreed to pay billions of dollars for closing on homes that they did not hold the mortgage on or whose owners were not behind on payments.

Wall Street and insurance companies created risky investments whose risks were not always identified. Individual investors and taxpayers paid the cost. A few banks aided the drug cartels by laundering their illegally obtained money and indirectly supported numerous murders. No individuals or banks were charged with criminal behavior.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, large corporations, including those controlled from other countries including China, can now try to buy elections. Large corporations with lots of money, as well as very wealthy individuals, have entirely too much influence in Congress. It is hard to believe that votes that go against the interest of the residents of this country are not directly or indirectly influenced by big money interests.

How you steal and how much you steal is important. If you steal enough money you can afford the very best legal representation. As Mr. Pedrow so aptly pointed out, the very largest companies and their CEOs/board of directors cannot be punished enough to discourage bad behavior.

Try not fully paying your employees (an all-too-common practice) and you will not face any serious consequence other than paying the employee what they are owed, with a small penalty. However, the odds greatly favor that the result will be that the employee and her family will never see all or even any of what they worked for. (By the way, they will not be able to spend that missing money at local businesses including sales tax.)

These endemic problems are all too obvious. The solution is not. There are some things we can do. We can look at where candidates are getting their support from. We can learn who makes direct sizable donations and who is contributing to their PACs — oops, we cannot do that. Too bad. We can look at the behavior of the large banks and other companies to choose where we do business. If they have paid a fine, they are probably still behaving badly.

Collectively we can promote change.

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.

Baum’s dictatorial ways are wrong for Longmont

During the City Council meeting of August 2nd, City Manager Gordon Pedrow found it necessary to chastise Longmont’s current (and hopefully former) mayor Bryan Baum with the following words, “We take direction from a majority of the council in public meetings, not from individual members in a private office.”

The comment was prompted by the mayor’s insistence that he had given Pedrow instructions about city employee insurance. This incident demonstrates that Baum fails to understand that governments are organized as a collaborative effort.

Some cities (Los Angeles is an example.) are run by a mayor who functions as the city’s manager. Others, like Longmont, have a city manager who takes direction from a council majority.

Unfortunately Bryan Baum refuses to comprehend the limits of his role. In Longmont, the mayor is only one of seven votes. He does not get to “call the shots” as Baum seems to think so. And he sets the agenda only to the extent that he can garner four votes.

Bryan Baum sees his role as dictatorial in both style and content. Longmont will never have a civil government, in every sense of the word, until Baum is removed from office. He bullies city staff. He twists the arms of council members with similar ideologies when they stray from the fold. And he only stopped insulting other council members and the public when he was warned about being caught on camera in an unfavorable light. He’s delegated that role to those who are not up for re-election this year.

Longmont is a charming city. It needs a mayor that reflects the best of Longmont, not its worst. It needs a mayor who can give Longmont a fresh start towards progress, cohesiveness and congeniality.

Bryan Baum is not that person. He is not that mayor.

Twin Peaks Mall: Silence unlikely to be golden

Twin Peaks Mall - photo by Duane Leise

At the close of Tuesday’s city council meeting, Council Member Gabe Santos requested that City Manager Gordon Pedrow and Director of Economic Development Brad Power contact Panattoni, owner of Twin Peaks Mall, to determine the status of the Mall.

He indicated that he and other council members receive many emails and calls asking, “What’s happening with the Mall?”  Clearly, all in Longmont have concerns.  Historically, the Mall has been a primary source of city revenues through the sales taxes that it has generated.  The neglect of the mall, by the previous and the current owners, and the state of the economy have caused the mall to decline.

Almost before Santos finished his comments, Mayor Bryan Baum interrupted to explain that both he and Power had attempted to contact Panattoni on Monday and “have not had the courtesy of a return call.”  They did, however, identify the party who would be able to answer their questions.

City Manager Pedrow followed up with a phone call to Panattoni’s CEO, and he, too, has failed to return the City of Longmont’s call.   Perhaps the corporation needs to be sure that they all have the same story to tell in response to Longmont’s inquiries—and just how much of it to tell.

Santos then requested that if no word is heard within a week, a letter be written to Panattoni from Longmont’s Mayor and City council insisting that the city receive “something in writing that addresses our concerns.”

I, of course, have no tea leaves to read, but I do have corporate background in Public Relations and in human behavior.  The silence from Panattoni is very disturbing.

People and companies usually are motivated to publicize good news and reluctant to share news that reflects poorly on the organization or could impede its objectives.  This leads one to believe that they haven’t yet secured an investor to meet the terms for refinancing the debt Panattoni assumed on the mall.

The City of Longmont has a long history of giving development virtually anything it wants.   I have long wondered what unofficial promises were made in 2007 by the Pirnack administration to encourage Panattoni to purchase Twin Peaks Mall.  As they say in the gambling industry – “on the come”.

The previous majority along with Mayor Roger Lange had well-founded concerns about the nature of the Mall’s future development and the degree of financial involvement in this public-private partnership.  Their diligence served the community well, especially considering the financial meltdown that arrived in 2008.

The Mall became the political hammer used by the current council majority to win the November 2009 election.  Either these new members were extremely naive or they were fully aware of the unlikelihood of development in the near future and found this issue useful to attack their opponents regardless of the facts.

Had Longmont rushed into this partnership early, the damage to the city’s overall financial situation would have been critical.

Bond ratings are critical to municipalities.  They are important both to our ability to bond and to do so at favorable interest rates.  And reduced sales tax revenues that result from Tax Increment Financing over 20-25 years if projections are not realized may also be a gamble.  In the situation Longmont finds itself, this is almost assured.  Although there has been some up tick in retails sales, that by no means indicates that there is a market for new or redeveloped commercial retail.

The citizens of Longmont need open and honest information.  Political spin will not suffice, either from Panattoni or from the Mayor or city council members or from the city’s administration.

Will Panattoni default on its debt?  Will the mall be purchased at a fire sale?  Will a new buyer sit on the property as is until the market for redevelopment makes economic sense?  Will any future buyer prey on the community’s desire to have a healthy and prosperous mall to negotiate financial conditions for themselves at the expense of Longmont’s many obligations and needs?

Members of the Longmont community must recognize that Twin Peaks Mall is indeed private property.   Members of our community have no control over what businesses, anchors or otherwise, choose to locate in the Mall.  Potential businesses operate according to their own business models.  If the demographics and location do not follow those models and make financial sense, no forceful demands or pleadings will make any difference whatsoever.  Just because we want something doesn’t mean that we can have it.

Because of the uncertainty in commercial retail and the uncertain future over business financing, no one in Longmont should expect redevelopment anytime soon.  That’s hard to hear, but it’s the reality.