It may be that the Environmental Protection Agency/Department of Justice/Colorado Department of Health and the Environment stormwater lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs may be settled fairly soon — thanks to President-elect Donald Trump.
While Trump’s policy positions during his campaign were often flexible or sketchy, one theme was constant: a hearty dislike of government over-regulation.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers is ready to sign a consent agreement to settle the lawsuit, in which the city would undertake to remediate ongoing and past violations of the city’s MS 4 stormwater management program. As Suthers has said, this is something that is both right and required — but he has balked at paying a multi-million dollar fine to the Feds, suggesting that the money would be more appropriately invested in fixing the problem.
The Business Journal received the official statement from the EPA, sent by EPA Region 8 spokesperson Rich Mylott on Nov. 9, subsequent the original post.
“EPA and the Department of Justice have been negotiating with the City since November 2015 to resolve violations identified during 2013 and 2015 inspections of the City’s stormwater management program,” the statement said. “The Department of Justice filed a complaint to obtain injunctive relief and civil penalties for these violations. The violations alleged in the complaint have been ongoing for many years and have led to discharges to waters that are not in compliance with the City’s stormwater permit. Wright Water Engineers, Inc. concluded that sediment deposition along Fountain Creek, between the cities of Fountain and Pueblo, increased by 295,000 tons per year after 1980.”
DOJ spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle said the department is “seeking corrective measures, not just penalties.”
Does this reflect a softening position from the three litigants? We’ll see — but it seems certain that a new Region 8 EPA administrator would be more inclined to settle the matter without a fine than the folks who may believe that the city has given them runaround for years. And regardless their political leanings, few city residents would support handing over $10 million to the Feds. After all, the violations were not deliberate, but rather the product of economic recession, political stumbles and past governmental incompetence. The Suthers administration and city council have ben working diligently to resolve the problem. Fining the city today would be as if you were forced to cover your scofflaw uncle’s parking tickets — you weren’t the perp, and neither are we!