With Scott Pruitt confirmed Friday as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, hope is on the way.

The Obama administration’s EPA has taken a heavy toll on Colorado’s environment. The agency filed a costly lawsuit against Colorado Springs that threatens to enrich lawyers with money the city would otherwise invest to protect the environment from the dangers of outdated stormwater infrastructure.

A year after Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers committed hundreds of millions for environmentally sound stormwater assets, the EPA filed a vindictive lawsuit designed to punish the city for potential harms of a poorly maintained drainage system. Costs of the suit will only slow the city’s ability to improve prospects for the environment and communities downstream from the Springs.

animas_river_2EPA hypocrites suing our community have refused to pay damages the agency caused farmers, ranchers, American Indian reservations, households and small businesses when it spilled 3 million gallons of toxic sludge from the Gold King Mine into the Animas and San Juan rivers in southwest Colorado.

The Gold King toxins turned the rivers a creepy and dangerous orange through southwest Colorado, and into New Mexico and Utah. The water — contaminated with lead, manganese, copper, iron, aluminum and other pollutants — infected wells, shut down rafting companies and harmed crops and livestock.

The EPA wants millions in fines from Colorado Springs for speculative environmental harm that could happen, but probably won’t, even though the city has begun upgrades at a furious pace to avoid the possibility. Yet, the EPA takes no responsibility for harm it absolutely caused to people downstream from a negligent spill the agency caused. Hypocrisy so blatant and unapologetic can only be seen as government thumbing its nose at people — and the environment.

We hope Pruitt quickly initiates two actions to help Colorado:

– Protect the environment from Colorado Springs’ runoff by withdrawing his agency’s counterproductive lawsuit. Make it go away so the community can continue fixing the very problems described in the lawsuit.

– Reconcile damages the agency caused, under the former administration, to people downstream of the EPA’s epic toxic spill.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., highlighted the EPA’s negligence during Pruitt’s confirmation hearing. He displayed a photo of the orange river, after the EPA’s spill.

“This wasn’t Scott Pruitt. This wasn’t Donald Trump. This was the Obama EPA that did this, and I only wish that my colleagues who have come to the floor for the past several hours had shown similar outrage when the Obama EPA did this to Colorado, inflicted this kind of damage on people in southwestern Colorado in the Gold King Mine spill,” Gardner said. “You want to talk about protecting states? Why didn’t we stand up and protect this river?”

We hope other elected officials will ask Pruitt to stop the EPA’s war on Colorado’s environment. At the very least, Pruitt should hear from: Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Gov. John Hickenlooper; Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers; Durango Mayor Christina Rinderle; Silverton Mayor Christine Tookey; Colorado Attorney Gen. Cynthia Coffman; U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs; and the rest of Colorado’s congressional delegation.

The EPA shows no concern for Colorado’s environment when it perpetuates a lawsuit that jeopardizes clean water downstream from Colorado Springs. The EPA shows no concern for the environment by refusing to remediate a massive toxic spill the agency caused in two pristine rivers.

Administrator Pruitt, congratulations and welcome to the EPA. Please protect the environment by undoing the harm your agency is causing in Colorado Springs, southwest Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Please restore integrity to the EPA.

The Gazette editorial board


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