GARFIELD COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO) – A lawsuit settlement forces the Garfield County Commissioners to retract a resolution that opposes the BLM’s proposal to limit public lands for oil shale development.
The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) agreed to settle with the Western Colorado Congress, Paul Light and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, who sued the commissioners for attending a meeting in Vernal, Utah, on March 27, 2012. They say because all commissioners were present and the meeting was behind closed doors, it violated Colorado’s Open Meetings Law.
According to the settlement agreement, the commissioners said they addressed the meeting in public sessions before March 27, but did not provide legally sufficient notice. The BOCC also acknowledged that the Vernal meeting was closed to the public and was not in compliance with the Open Meetings Law.
As part of the settlement, the commissioners agreed to pay for the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees, which total $7,500.
They will also write a letter to the BLM, taking back Resolution 12-14, a written opposition to the BLM’s 2012 Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). That statement would decrease the public lands open to oil shale research and development, taking it from 2 million acres to 461,965 acres.
If the BOCC wants to adopt another resolution about the BLM PEIS, they will have to publicly post a notice at least 14 days in advance announcing a meeting where the resolution will be open to public comment.
The commissioners say they decided to settle because continued litigation would not be in the best interest of the citizens of Garfield County.
The Grand Valley Citizens Alliance interprets the settlement as an admission of guilt by the BOCC.