If you go

What: "Rally for Climate Change Accountability"

When: Noon Tuesday

Where: Boulder County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl St., Boulder

More info: Government officials from Boulder, Boulder County and San Miguel County will be making a joint announcement about "climate change efforts" that those officials would not specify

The city and county of Boulder, along with San Miguel County in southwestern Colorado, will hold a joint rally Tuesday to announce an as-yet-unspecified "crucial effort in the fight against climate change."

Though officials are declining to comment on what that effort will entail, there are numerous signs indicating the announcement likely may concern legal action against fossil fuel-producing corporations.

The city of Boulder decided in January to move ahead with such action, with the City Council arguing at the time that local governments, including Boulder, have had to spend money to address climate change issues that are partially the consequence of emissions from fossil fuel producers.

Boulder was approached by the Washington, D.C., organization EarthRights International, which has extensive background working on lawsuits against corporations, including fossil fuel producers such as Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron.


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After the council made its commitment in January, members of the city staff advised that EarthRights would be working with Colorado lawyers and trying to get other local governments in the state on board with the lawsuit. The organization's work in this state is pro bono.

The case, it was said in January, would be filed in state court.

Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones, who championed the council's exploration of legal action against fossil fuel producers, said Monday morning that she would be speaking at Tuesday's rally, which is scheduled to run from noon to 1 p.m. in front of the Boulder County Courthouse at 1325 Pearl St.

"It's about joint climate change efforts," Jones said of the rally. Asked if she could provide any more specifics, she said, "No. That's why the announcement is happening tomorrow at noon."

Added Jones, "The whole idea is to have people come to the rally, so I'm not going to confirm what's being announced. And decisions have to be made before the rally."

She didn't elaborate on what "decisions" are to be made, but, notably, the Boulder County commissioners will be meeting on Tuesday morning — half an hour before the rally begins, in fact — to "consider joining the lawsuit," confirmed Barb Halpin, county spokeswoman, in an email.

The planned 11:30 consideration that Halpin mentioned was not reflected on the commissioners' meeting agenda as of Monday morning.

Also on Tuesday morning, right before the rally, the San Miguel County Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to meet privately in executive session.

Among the topics scheduled for that executive session, according to the meeting's agenda, are "litigation" and "Update/Discussion/Motion on EarthRights/Climate Change."

EarthRights litigates "against the entities responsible for climate change while defending those harmed," according to the organization's website.

Emily Sandoval, spokeswoman for Boulder's Energy Future office, which in January presented to the council about legal action, confirmed Monday morning that EarthRights is the firm Boulder is working with in its pursuit to sue fossil fuel producers.

Later on Monday morning, Halpin sent out a news release that listed EarthRights attorney Marco Simons as a speaker at the rally.

The speaker list included Mayor Jones and her sister Elise, a county commissioner; San Miguel County Commissioner Kris Holstrom; 350 Colorado Executive Director Micah Parkin; Rebecca Dickson of the Sierra Club; Emma Bray of Earth Guardians; and Boulder City Councilman Sam Weaver.

Halpin did not offer any direct answer when asked what the three governments will be rallying about on Tuesday.

But it is also notable that the county on April 10 announced a new report on the impact of climate change and the projected "climate impact" costs that both Boulder County and Boulder will incur. Those costs are the primary motivator of Boulder's lawsuit.

"If we can get people who have profited from fossil fuel extraction to pay us back for some of the costs we're bearing from some of those impacts, I don't know why we'd pass it up," Weaver said at the time.

When the council discussed the suit in January, City Attorney Tom Carr advised that it could end up taking up significant staff time, which "could" delay or otherwise affect the city's ongoing, labor-intensive effort to separate from Xcel Energy and form a municipal electric utility.

Carr said the project could also delay Boulder's pursuit of citywide broadband, adding that the attorney he planned to assign to broadband is also assigned to the municipalization case.

The litigation movement that Boulder has joined, and Boulder and San Miguel counties may also be joining, has been building for two decades.

There are current billion-dollar legal challenges in New York and California against fossil fuel companies, and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University has now tallied more than 1,000 suits.

The oil and gas industry in Colorado has been expecting developments in local litigation ever since Boulder's meeting in January. Officials from that sector are prepared to oppose any joint lawsuit that could be forthcoming.

Energy in Depth, a campaign formed by the Independent Petroleum Association of America — a trade group for the industry — offered a statement, and took a jab at the potential inclusion of relatively far-away San Miguel County in a Boulder-based effort.

"Leave it to Boulder to sue Colorado oil and gas producers for a PR stunt," said Rebecca Simons, field director for Energy in Depth.

"No surprise there. But its telling they were only able to get one other county in the state to go along with this scheme brought by D.C. trial lawyers. As the Hickenlooper administration recently pointed out, it's better to address climate challenges through collaboration, not lawsuits.

"That formula is working as Colorado's energy industry continues to find new and innovative ways to help improve the environment while creating thousands of good paying jobs and adding billions to our growing economy."

Alex Burness: 303-473-1389, burnessa@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/alex_burness