How far does a national park extend past its boundary line? In the case of the Great Sand Dunes National Park, we’re told the boundary stretches past the gate, over a mountain range, and across a valley on the other side. That’s according to anti-fossil fuel activists working to stop oil and natural gas leasing east of the park and on the other side of the mountains on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management for multiple uses.
As the third anniversary of the EPA-caused Gold King mine disaster approaches, real question exists as to whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can overcome an inherent conflict of interest and properly manage the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Site to improve water quality in the Animas River. The EPA could demonstrate such capability by taking two simple and sensible actions: 1) run the EPA Gladstone Treatment Plant to full capacity; and 2) end the useless and expensive academic investigations it is forcing Sunnyside Gold Corporation (SGC) to conduct.
Gov. Hickenlooper recently signed an executive order directing his appointees at the Air Quality Control Commission to promulgate a new rule adopting California’s Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standards for new vehicle sales in Colorado beginning in 2022. If successful, the governor’s plan will very likely cost Coloradans billions of dollars in higher vehicle prices and taxpayer subsidies.
If they couldn’t fight over water, would longtime rivals Pueblo and Colorado Springs find something else to fight over? Of course! But for now, the ongoing feud over Fountain Creek will do.
The contaminated stormwater that perennially pours into the waterway from the Springs metro area and flows downstream to Pueblo and beyond prompted a lawsuit against Colorado Springs in 2016 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The agencies cited violations of water-quality standards. Pueblo joined the suit even as the two cities started talks and reached an agreement. Colorado Springs agreed to spend $460 million over 20 years on stormwater projects to rein in its runoff. Toward that end, Springs voters agreed in April to give up $12 million in excess tax revenue over two years to spend on stormwater projects.
So, should the state and feds now drop their lawsuit? 5th Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs thinks so, as reported last week, and he has asked the Trump administration’s new EPA chief Scott Pruitt to reconsider the litigation. Lamborn’s hope is that the winds of change blowing through the federal agency could shift its tilt on a suit that had been filed under the Obama administration.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers not surprisingly is hoping the same thing and told The Colorado Springs Gazette last Saturday he welcomed Lamborn’s efforts.
Whatever comes of Lamborn’s overture, at least one Pueblo County commissioner isn’t taking it sitting down. And even Lamborn’s fellow Colorado Republican House member, Scott Tipton, whose neighboring 3rd Congressional District includes Pueblo, is expressing misgivings.
Pueblo County Commission Chairman Terry Hart said Lamborn has played no role in the years of negotiations between Colorado Springs and county officials over stormwater controls, adding: “He should stay the heck out of it.”
While Lamborn seems to think the agreement between the two cities moots the suit, Hart believes the lawsuit made it possible — and will cement the gain in place:
“The threat of that lawsuit was critically important in our reaching an intergovernmental agreement with Colorado Springs,” Hart said Tuesday. “We joined that lawsuit to protect our interests and right now, Colorado Springs is doing a good job of honoring its commitment. But the lawsuit would nail down the agreement to withstand the political winds that blow back and forth.”
Tipton appeared more circumspect about the foray by his GOP House colleague, but a statement from his office quoted by Roper leaves no doubt the congressman from Cortez isn’t on Lamborn’s side:
“While Congressman Tipton has been encouraged by the commitment demonstrated by Mayor (John) Suthers to solve this long-standing problem, the lawsuit was filed by both the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for a reason,” a spokesman said.
It’s anyone’s guess where it all will lead with a West Slope water watchdog like Tipton in on the standoff — and taking Pueblo’s side. Yet another illustration of how Colorado’s water wars can cut cross party lines.
Federal environmental regulators are seeking “input and wisdom” from Colorado as they begin the process of rewriting a Barack Obama-era water protection rule known as WOTUS, which the White House says it now wants aligned with a Supreme Court opinion on water rights from the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Despite a growing list of climate change doubters and fossil fuel industry supporters and executives comprising the list of Trump administration cabinet nominees, Democratic Colorado lawmakers and environmentalists are hopeful the state’s clean energy economy and outdoor recreation industry can continue to thrive.
Mostly, though, there’s a growing sense of dread from the conservation community as President-elect Donald Trump picks people like Republican Montana U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke for the post of Interior Secretary, former Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry for Energy Secretary and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. Oil and gas industry representatives, meanwhile, are eagerly looking forward to Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20.
About a third of Colorado is owned by the federal government and managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service. Coal mining and oil and gas companies have for the past eight years of the Obama administration lamented environmental regulations perceived as hurdles to energy production on public lands.