Connecting state and local government leaders

Colorado Localities Challenge Energy Giants With New Lawsuit

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Curbing Atlanta City Hall’s “culture of political interference” … N.Y.C. officials look to boost Airbnb enforcement … more GOP leaders want Mo. governor to resign … and Pa. Turnpike to get “delicious vegan cookies.”

Here are state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention …

ENERGY | In Colorado, the city of Boulder, Boulder County and San Miguel County, which is home to the city of Telluride, filed a lawsuit in the state’s 20th Judicial District Court on Tuesday against oil giants Suncor and ExxonMobil, demanding the corporations “pay their fair share of the costs associated with climate change impacts, so that the costs do not fall disproportionately on taxpayers,” according to a statement released by Boulder County in advance of a Facebook Live announcement event held Tuesday. Similar climate-change cases have been filed in California and New York, but this is the first one of its kind filed “anywhere in the U.S. interior,” according to the statement. Boulder is home to some of the nation’s top environmental science research facilities. More from the release:

Climate change affects fragile high-altitude ecosystems and hits at the heart of these communities’ local economies, affecting roads and bridges, parks and forests, buildings, farming and agriculture, the ski industry, and public open space. Adapting to such a wide range of impacts requires local governments to undertake unprecedented levels of planning and spending. Over the next three decades, these communities will face at least one hundred million dollars in costs to deal with the impacts of climate change caused by the use of fossil fuel products like those made and sold by Suncor and Exxon... Suncor and Exxon have known about the costly consequences of fossil fuel use for more than 50 years. 

“Climate change is not just about sea level rise,” said Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones. “Colorado is one of the fastest warming states in the nation.” [Boulder County / Facebook]

GOVERNORS | Pressure continues to mount for Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who is facing trial for felony invasion of privacy charges and more questions about his use of a charity’s donor list in his campaign, to resign. New calls for the GOP governor to step aside came on Tuesday from members of the Republican leadership in the Missouri House, who said in a statement: “At the outset of this process, we said the governor needed to be forthright and accountable for his actions. After thoughtful consideration of the findings in the House committee’s report and today’s news that the Attorney General has evidence to support another felony charge, we believe the governor needs to take responsibility for his actions.” [KTVI-TV / Fox2]


Atlanta City Hall (Shutterstock)
  • Atlanta, Georgia: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Monday announced dramatic reforms to the city’s open-records policies just days after media outlets filed complaints with Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. The outlets argued that they were battling “a culture of political interference” at Atlanta City Hall. Among the reforms, the mayor proposed creating a new official records custodian position with the city and requiring open-records training for all city employees. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
  • Los Angeles, California: The L.A. City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to require companies doing business or seeking to do business with the city disclose whether they are helping to build the Trump administration’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The new  ordinance states that the wall has the "potential to divide… Los Angeles along racial, religious and immigration status, which is the antithesis of our shared values." The law is meant to act as a deterrent. It doesn’t officially ban companies working on the proposed wall from doing business with the city. [Los Angeles Times]
  • New York City, New York: City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Monday asked Mayor Bill de Blasio to allocate an additional $2 million in the city budget to the Office of Special Enforcement charged with cracking down on illegal short-term rentals advertised on sites like Airbnb. Johnson estimated that the money would double the staff at the OSE, which has been underwater in seeking to enforce Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2016 anti-Airbnb law. Crain’s New York Business reported last year that it would take staffers 43 years at the current rate of enforcement to look into all of the Airbnb listings in violation of the law. [Curbed New York, Crain’s New York Business]
  • Jacksonville, Florida: Mayor Lenny Curry acted fast Tuesday to tamp down anger ignited by an ugly interaction in which city employee Melinda Powers issued a code-violation citation to a motorcycle dealership for flying military flags. “Are you kidding me right now?” the store manager said in a Facebook video that took off and sparked a petition to have Powers fired. Powers posted a hasty apology on Facebook but it didn’t work. By Tuesday afternoon, Curry had placed Powers and her supervisor on administrative leave. The mayor said there was no city law against flying military flags. “As the son and grandson of military veterans, and the mayor of a city with a proud history of commitment to our nation’s defense, I will not tolerate disparagement or disrespect of the men and women who serve or served.” [WTLV-TV: First Coast News]
  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Resident Bruce Danielson will be heard! This week he filed a lawsuit targeting Mayor Mike Huether and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, demanding $300,000 as compensation for violating his civil rights. Danielson alleges that the mayor struck him with an elbow to the head three years ago after a city council meeting and that the state attorney general buried an investigation into the incident. "There have been attacks on me personally in many different ways," Danielson told the Argus Leader. "The forces of government have been used against me illegally." Danielson regularly airs concerns about city government at Council meetings. In 2014, he correctly identified code violations being made during a city construction project. Danielson planned to testify in that code-violation case, but city authorities arrested him on the day he was scheduled to take the stand and cited him for building code violations at his home. [Argus Leader]  
  • Racine, Wisconsin: City council members voted 14-1 in favor of Mayor Cory Mason’s proposal to commit the city to meeting the goals of the 2014 Paris international climate accord. Councilmember Sandy Weidner cast the opposing vote, arguing that any associated costs the city might accrue to cut carbon emissions hadn’t been calculated. “This is not our money we’re talking about; this is the taxpayers’ money,” she said. Councilmember John Tate saw it as a matter of leadership. “If we really care about something, then we put our money where our mouth is,” he said. [The Journal Times]
An entrance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Harrisburg. (Shutterstock)
  • New Castle, Pennsylvania: The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has awarded the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for rescuing “two goats stranded on an 8-inch-wide beam on the 109-foot-high Mahoning River Bridge on April 3,” according to an announcement. Both organizations will get “a framed certificate and a box of delicious vegan cookies.” [PETA]

John Tomasic is a journalist who lives in Seattle.

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