A number of the 20 or so fracking foes who called on the Longmont City Council on Tuesday night to delay voting on an ordinance detailing a proposed city agreement with a pair of oil and gas companies left the meeting early, mistakenly thinking they’d succeeded in getting the measure postponed.
Instead, the council voted 7-0 at about 10:45 p.m. to give initial approval to the ordinance detailing what Longmont, TOP Operating Co. and Cub Creek Energy have agreed to do in connection with ending drilling for oil and gas from the surfaces of properties within city limits.
Under the agreement, Longmont would pay Lakewood-based TOP Operating Co. $3 million in return for the company’s plugging and abandoning of eight active wells, abandoning or removing flow and gathering lines associated with those wells, relinquishing 11 future drilling sites, abandoning 80 potential well permits, and never again drilling from within city limits, according to the city’s announcement.
“We got tricked,” said Josh James, of Longmont Protectors, who raised issues about the proposal during a public-invited-to-be heard portion of the meeting prior to the council’s unanimous vote for preliminary approval of the ordinance.
James said in a late Tuesday night Facebook posting and a Wednesday interview that he was under the impression that the council had removed the oil and gas agreement ordinance from Tuesday night’s meeting entirely — only to bring it back up after waiting “for most of us to go home.”
He added: “We all definitely feel like we were fooled.”
Earlier Tuesday, many of the members of the general public who marched to the microphone to express their objections to the pact urged the council to “remove the item from the consent agenda” portion of the meeting.
A number of those people said the council should hold a forum on the measure, giving Longmont-area residents more of an opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns about the agreement.
The council should delay any votes on the ordinance until after it has such an open forum, those speakers said.
The city did not announce the terms of the agreement and make Tuesday night’s agenda packet with related staff memos available until last Thursday, and James told the council, “I don’t feel the public has had enough time to digest this.”
Marc Osborne told council members that Longmont residents need more time to examine and understand the terms and implications of the proposed agreement with the oil and gas companies.
James Kenworthy also urged the council to take the item off Tuesday night’s agenda, saying it needs “a healthy discussion.”
Longmont’s council did remove the oil and gas agreement ordinance from the consent portion of the agenda. However, that did not automatically table the measure or postpone an initial vote on the ordinance until a future meeting.
Instead, pulling an item from the consent agenda — something that any individual council member can request — just means that it will come up again later at that night’s council meeting, with the council then voting whether to approve, reject or postpone action on it.
Jeff Thompson said the item should be removed from council agendas “long enough to get the facts straight.”
The council, however, followed long-standing procedures on Tuesday night.
When Longmont’s regular-meeting agenda is prepared, the city clerk puts ordinances up for “first reading” — initial council votes — on the consent agenda that’s published in advance of the meeting itself.
When the council gets to that part of the meeting’s agenda, any individual council member can ask for a specific item or items to be removed from the consent agenda in order for the council to discuss it further later in the meeting. The city manager’s office also can request that items be shifted off the consent agenda if the staff wants to make a presentation prior to the initial votes.
The council then adopts the rest of the consent agenda — items that haven’t been pulled off by one or more council members or the staff — as a package, without a during-the-meeting discussion of those ordinances and resolutions.
On Tuesday, for example, no one pulled — and the council gave initial approval, without discussion — a pair of ordinances that would adjust spending in the 2018 city budget, and vacate drainage and utility easements in the Harvest Junction Subdivision.
Under regular-meeting procedures, council members return that night to consideration of the items that were pulled from the consent agenda. After that, and again that night, they can vote on whether to adopt those items or postpone their consideration to a future meeting.
That’s what happened to the oil-and-gas agreement ordinance on Tuesday: The council discussed it late in the meeting before voting its preliminary approval of the measure.
A “second reading” of that ordinance — including a public hearing at which people can formally testify for or against its passage — and a possible final council vote, is scheduled for May 22.
“I expect a crowd” at that night’s public hearing on the oil and gas ordinance, James said on Wednesday.
As part of the agreement, Highlands Ranch-based Cub Creek Energy LLC, the second company involved in the proposed pact, will commit to forever relinquishing any right to drill inside Longmont city limits or on city-owned property — if the state approves Cub Creek’s proposed well location in Weld County northeast of Union Reservoir.
Any payments due to TOP would be made from royalties Longmont gets from Cub Creek in return for Cub Creek’s production of oil from deposits of oil and gas for which the city owns mineral rights — rights the city would lease to Cub Creek.