Broomfield city attorney throws cold water on charter amendment to curb oil and gas

Author: Joey Bunch - June 19, 2017 - Updated: June 19, 2017

Broomfield city and county attorney Bill Tuthill
Broomfield city and county attorney Bill Tuthill. (Photo via livestream of the city and county council meeting)


Colorado Politics told you this month that some Broomfield residents want more public health and safety requirements for permitting oil and gas wells written into the city charter.

They’re out collecting the 2,500 signatures from the town’s roughly 48,000 registered voters to get the issue on the November ballot. The language mirrors that of a pending lawsuit by Boulder County teenagers (fronting environmental groups) to force state regulators to balance public health and safety against the wishes of industry when the commission reviews new permits.

City and county attorney Bill Tuthill threw a cold dose of legal reality on the activists at the last city council meeting. Even if they get it on the ballot and it passes, current law is not in its favor, which could put the city in court, a familiar place for north metro communities trying to push back against the energy industry.

Tuthill read from a statute that said the city charter can’t repeal vested property or contract rights.

“Even if the charter is amended the effect it will have on existing rights and contracts is going to be governed by this statute,” he said. “… In the simplest terms, this statute says you can’t undo a contract by passing a city charter amendment.”

Colorado Politics asked for a comment from Vital for Colorado, the statewide coalition of business leaders that supports energy development.

“We have been down this road before,” Vital chairman Peter Moore said in a statement. “National anti-oil and gas groups pushed a series of unlawful local bans on energy development and those measures were struck down by the state’s highest court. It’s hard to believe oil and gas opponents are trying the same thing again, but that’s exactly what they’re doing, and they’re sending the bill directly to Broomfield taxpayers.”

The temperature has been hot in Broomfield for a while, in a region accustomed to court cases and bitter political disputes between people who want to drill and prosper in the northeast metro region and those who want to live there.

At the meeting, Broomfield resident Camille Cave alleged Councilman Kevin Kreeger had a “bromance” with Andrew O’Connor, the Lafayette man who wrote a letter to the editor of the Boulder Daily Camera two months ago suggesting blowing up gas wells and shooting workers to impede drilling.

Cave read from Kreeger’s e-mails obtained through an open-records request. She chose selected passages that, out of context, sounded damning. In one, Kreeger complimented O’Connor for his his fracking activism. “‘I applaud your energy and drive to do what’s right,'” Cave read from the e-mail, written sometime before O’Connor’s April 19 letter.

She began and ended suggesting Kreeger was a snake in the grass, and made a hissing sound at the podium as she concluded.

Kreeger responded that he was targeted by the oil and gas supporters, and he was simply answering one of the dozens of e-mails O’Connor sent him, with no knowledge of O’Connor’s views on violence as a solution.

He said he’s not against all fracking, but is opposed to current proposals for more wells in the city.

“What’s truly unfortunate is this nasty, disgusting, Washington, D-C.-level of personal attacks that’s come into our local politics,” Kreeger said. “And in no way ever did I imply that violence is an appropriate response on either side.”

You can watch the council meeting online by clicking here.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.