Colorado city council member agrees to unblock fracking foes on Facebook

A pump jack in a field with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

An Aurora City Council member who lives in the eastern portion of the city, which is seeing a bulk of the region’s oil and gas development, wants to shake up the local oil and gas advisory committee.

Councilwoman Nicole Johnston wants to change the makeup of the committee so that it has some independence from the oil and gas industry. But so far, it’s been an uphill battle.

Johnston told councilmembers this week she’d like to see the committee, which she served on before being elected this past year, shrink from five residents, three industry representatives and three surface property owners to two fewer members. The new make-up of the advisory committee would reduce industry representatives from three to two.

The proposal says that of the five resident representatives only one shall be a present or former employee or lobbyist of the oil and gas industry.

Part of the reasoning behind the proposed change is that it’s hard to get committee members to attend meetings, she said. But the other part is creating distance from the industry.

The committee currently produces minority reports, but Johnston said they aren’t truly minority reports if there aren’t independent voices.

She first introduced the proposal at a committee meeting last month. The Sentinel reported that a handful of residents showed up in support of the measure; one, who said he was on the advisory board, was against.

“I don’t want Aurora to become another Greeley with a thousand wells within the city including many near houses, schools and playgrounds,” Johnston later told the newspaper.

The measure didn’t receive a recommendation from the committee to move forward —  council members Angela Lawson and Bob Roth voted against it. Roth said he didn’t believe there was a need for change.

But Aurora city council rules allow members to take resolutions or ordinances through committees straight to the floor if they wish.

Johnston said at a study session this week that is what she plans to do.

And perhaps this advisory committee won’t be her last transparency effort. There are more than 30 commissions, committees and advisory boards in Aurora. She told the Sentinel she plans to look at adding more of a community voice on those boards, too.

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