City council deadlock blocks climate committee proposal in Aurora

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AURORA | The latest political stalemate among city council members has essentially halted progress on a Climate Action Committee in Aurora. 

The proposal, which was originally spearheaded by former Councilmember Nicole Johnston and then picked up by Councilmember Alison Coombs, didn’t garner enough support at a city council study session this week, even when supporters of the climate panel agreed to leave the city’s oil and gas commission intact.

Republican members Marsha Berzins, Francoise Bergan, Dave Gruber, Curtis Gardner and Mayor Mike Coffman said they didn’t support moving the proposal forward to a formal vote. 

When asked by Coombs during the study session what changes could move the needle on the proposal, those opposed to the measure declined to speak. Study sessions have historically been a place where city council members discuss, debate and even change ordinance proposals, but Coffman insisted the study session was not the appropriate place to discuss any revisions.

The original proposal for the Climate Action Committee called to dissolve the current Oil and Gas Advisory Committee, which is constructed of industry stakeholders, residents affected by oil and gas production in Aurora and surface property owners. 

City staff confirmed the recent creation of the Oil and Gas Division and hiring of the city’s first Oil and Gas Manager last year “created some redundancy with the committee.” Prior to state legislation shifting oil and gas control to local governments, city lawmakers approved an operator agreement system to manage development on the city’s eastern edges. 

Johnston, who first got involved in city politics through her involvement with the oil and gas advisory committee and advocating for residents in Ward II, told the Sentinel that between the operator agreements and city division the advisory committee has become mostly “antiquated.” 

In 2016, the advisory committee went from ad-hoc to a more formal entity where residents could ask questions, leave feedback and receive information about oil and gas developments in their neighborhoods. After being elected in 2017, Johnston unsuccessfully moved to mandate more residents be on the advisory committee than industry representatives.

Earlier this year, Aurora city lawmakers agreed to a smattering of stronger oil and gas regulations developed by city Oil and Gas manager Jeffrey Moore.

During this week’s meeting, Moore said in a presentation that attendance at the Oil and Gas Advisory Committee meetings over the past three years has been “very low,” averaging just 1.4 people. More often than not, the attendees were from the oil and gas industry.

“These values demonstrate that neither members of the public nor industry staff are deriving great value from attendance,” city staff wrote in a memo. 

Per the proposal, the Climate Action Committee would be composed of:

  • Five residents
  • At least one person, but no more than two, representing an advocacy group
  • At least one person, but no more than two, employed by the state working on climate-related issues
  • At least one person, but not more than two, employed with a regional agency working on climate-related issues
  • At least one person, but not more than two, employed in the energy industry, which includes oil and gas, renewable energy and utilities 
  • At least one, but not more than two, Aurora business owners

Johnston said energy industry representation was purposefully baked into the proposal, as her plan was to completely repeal the Oil and Gas Advisory Committee. 

Half of Aurora city lawmakers opposed that proposal Monday. Supporters of the new committee compromised, proposing that the city add the Climate Action Committee in addition to the Oil and Gas Advisory Committee. 

Without a committed six votes, the proposal is effectively dead. Coombs told the Sentinel Tuesday she’s currently considering her next steps with the proposal. If she were to bring it to a formal meeting and it failed, city rules dictate it could not be brought up again for six months. 

Coombs and Johnston both echoed frustrations about a lack of space for climate-related issues to be discussed and include community input, especially with increasing state, regional and federal environmental mandates.

“It’s urgent, so I would not like to delay this six months,” Coombs said. “We really don’t have any (climate) plan or strategy so the goal would be to have a plan and strategy.”

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freeatlast
freeatlast
3 months ago

What kinds of Neanderthal idiots do we have on our City Council? (Oh! I guess the kinds who get lots and lots of campaign contributions from oil and gas to befoul our land, water, and air.) Selfish, greedy, short-sighted people who don’t care about anything or anyone but their own interests: Coffman, Berzins, Bergin, Gardiner, Gruber. If Climate Change is not an urgent concern, then they are ostritches with their heads in the dirt. Shame shame shame on them all.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  freeatlast

You got it!

DICK MOORE
DICK MOORE
3 months ago
Reply to  freeatlast

Lot’s of ugly words for one person’s opinion. If it’s true that climate change is indeed, a urgent concern, then it will never be solved at the local level.

Pat Smythe
Pat Smythe
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Coffman intimated that very thing during the meeting. He said climate concerns handled by the state are sufficient for Aurora since Aurora wouldn’t have much effect, if any. I believe a climate action committee would want the ability to control our individual responses to the environment … at least the environment the CAC deems relevant.

Dale G Nichols
Dale G Nichols
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Action is urgently needed at all levels simultaneously; international, national, regional, local, neighborhood, and even each family’s decision about what kind of vehicle to buy, how to recycle, etc. They all fit together.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

No, but it does start at that level. In fact, it starts even lower than that–with each and every person, and therein lies the problem and explains why our Country is such a contributor to the problem. (China and India are the biggest.)

Doug King
Doug King
3 months ago

It appears to me that absent a majority of one or the other party, nothing is going to get done in the city until the election in November. It’s really a shame. That they are so partisan y j eyes cannot even speak to one another. At least one side just sits mute. Those should be. Replaced.

Pat Smythe
Pat Smythe
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug King

Councilmembers are more in agreement than not. They usually tend to vote unanimously on the workings of the city such as infrastructure, allocating funds for community services, etc. It’s when there is a typically contentious issue do they takes sides. Those on the left complain that those on the right are making it “political,” as if the left side are non-partisan and only looking out for the people. Hardly. It is always political on the left, especially with the Socialist members on the city council.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  Pat Smythe

There are no socialists on City Council. But what you say about the liberal faction can also be said about the conservative faction. See how it works. All levels of government are suffering from trumpism these days.

DICK MOORE
DICK MOORE
3 months ago

Thank You, Mayor Coffman, Berzins, Bergin, Gardiner, and Gruber for not spending Aurora monies and time on a State and National issue. Please continue to hold back the free spending socialists on City Council until we citizens can vote them out of office.

Ward V citizens note that Coombs, continues to be a ringleader in another topic that is not for Aurora local citizens to discuss or spend time on. She states that we (Auirora) do not have a “plan or strategy” on climate change. That’s correct and that is proper to not have a plan. It’s just not a local issue.

sugar
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

The Climate Change Committee would actually save money because it would incorporate other committees regarding our water, our air, etc.

It seemed as if there was a problem with the original
proposal because it disbanded the Oil and Gas
Committee.

So the next proposal agreed NOT to disband the
Oil and Gas Committee, and the republicans still
refused to even debate the subject.

When asked if they agree climate change is real . . .no one even bothered to reply.

Now I can see why the republicans were so intent
that Dr. Ryan Ross did not get appointed. If he
had, I’m pretty sure he would have voted in favor
of the Aurora City Council to talk about solutions
to protect our environment.

Dale G Nichols
Dale G Nichols
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

It is a local issue. It’s not just a local issue.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Ah, but it is an issue at every level, even as far down as individuals.

None
None
3 months ago

Vote all of them out

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago

I think we, the citizens and constituents can expect little to be accomplished until the vacant seat is filled. (And the Council can’t even do that.) Before Nicole resigned, this wasn’t the case, but unfortunately for the conservative faction, those resolutions were not to its liking. Now it sees the opportunity to change that in its favor and is stubbornly going to hold out until it gets its way. This is NOT the way people are supposed to be governed.

Frank2525
Frank2525
3 months ago

Out of HS in 1947, I worked in coalmine for 2 years in Ohio, shallow, shale mine as Electrician-Wire Hanger. No mask, breathed the same gases complained about, and will be 92 in November. Lungs at 91-93% now, since I only smoked tobacco 1951 to 1961, and only cigars and pipe. Assigned to Air Force Interceptor Squadrons, and even women smoked cigars (small ones). I quit, on my own, when as shop supervisor, I lost 13 man hours of electronic-troubleshooting/repair, arguing over cigar, versus cigarette ashes on floor, next to transmitter-receiver unit. I had to prepare time reporting for 13 hours, in 15 minute increments, for that shop, knowing I would now have to teach a corrective class on lies. Simple- I quit smoking cigars, and ordered the violator, never to walk behind counter in my shop again, while smoking anything. All afraid of those gases, take hint. Don’t smoke tobacco, or anything you don’t need,