Longmont City Council to hold Tuesday executive session on anti-fracking lawsuit, Longmont Housing Authority

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The Longmont City Council is scheduled to meet virtually, outside of public view, for a Tuesday afternoon executive-session discussion of a lawsuit that seeks to reinstate Longmont’s voter-adopted ban on hydraulic fracturing within the city.

City staff and Council members will participate remotely in that closed meeting, the agenda of which also includes a discussion of a “sustainable operational structure” for the Longmont Housing Authority, an item that appears to be related to recently announced  plans for the city to enter into an intergovernmental agreement that would shift the housing agency’s operational responsibilities to the city.

While members of the public cannot watch those discussions while the executive session is underway, they can arrange to remotely “attend” Council’s formal public vote to convene the 4 p.m. meeting, by calling the City Clerk’s Office beforehand at 303-651-8649 for instructions and information about how to do that, according to the meeting’s agenda.

The motion Council members must approve in order to go into the executive session says that City Manager Harold Dominguez and City Attorney Eugene Mei requested the session to “determine negotiation positions and strategies, receive legal advice, and consider confidential documents” about the items to be discussed.

Fracking ban

One of those items stems from a January lawsuit that two environmental activist groups — Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont; and Food & Water Watch — filed to seek a Boulder County District Court declaration that local oil and gas fracking bans, such as the one Longmont voters approved in 2012, no longer conflict with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act.

Those two groups named Longmont, along with the state of Colorado and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, as defendants in the lawsuit.

In 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court blocked enforcement of Longmont’s ban on hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting sand, water and chemicals to free up deep underground oil and gas deposits, within the city’s boundaries.

The state’s high court ruled that Longmont’s prohibition interfered with state regulations and the state’s interest in oil and gas development.

However, Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, and Food & Water Watch contend that increased local-control authority to regulate oil and gas activities contained in Senate Bill 19-181, a new state law the Legislature adopted last year, means that the fracking ban voters approved adding to Longmont municipal charter is no longer out of compliance with state law and should be enforced.

The January lawsuit is the second legal effort by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont and by Joseph Salazar,an attorney for Colorado Rising for Communities representing the local group, to get the courts to declare that Longmont’s ban no longer conflicts with state law and must be enforced.

Our Longmont initially filed a motion last August to re-open the 2014 case in which the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Article XVI of the Longmont Municipal Charter, which banned fracking within city limits, was in conflict with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act.

Boulder County District Court Judge Nancy Salomoneruled in December that the change in state law was not “an extraordinary circumstance that warrants reopening this case.” Salomone further stated, however, that Our Longmont “may have the merits of its claim resolved by filing a new action for declaratory judgment,” which Salazar; Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont; and Food & Water Watch did in January.

Tuesday afternoon’s meeting will be Longmont City Council’s third executive session on Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont’s lawsuits.  Council met in an August executive session to discuss Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont’s initial effort to overturn the 2016 Colorado Supreme Court decision and in January to discuss the latest one.

Housing Authority

Tuesday’s executive-session consideration of what the agenda states will be a discussion of the Longmont Housing Authority’s “sustainable operational structure” comes after the city announced in a news release last Friday  that it and the housing agency “are planning to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement that shifts the operational responsibilities of the Longmont Housing Authority to the City of Longmont.”

Longmont stated in that news release that  “the City and the LHA have been working together over the past several months to reexamine the operations of the Housing Authority after identifying that the existing model is not sustainable for the long term due to its current size and economies of scale.”

The city said in that announcement that it and the housing authority “will continue to work closely to build an efficient operational model, based on collaboration and resource sharing, that best serves the Longmont community.”

Tuesday’s 4 p.m. executive session will precede the Council’s 7 pm. regular meeting, which will be live-streamed and available for people to watch.

This content was originally published here.

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