Colorado editorials: EPA hypocrites won’t pay victims of Gold King spill
January 18, 2017
EPA hypocrites won't pay victims of Gold King spill
The Environmental Protection Agency is suing Colorado Springs for inadequate drainage facilities, because the EPA purportedly cares so much about clean water. The outdated infrastructure could, conceivably, cause trouble downstream. City officials raced to upgrade facilities long before the suit, committing hundreds of millions to do so. Regardless, the EPA wants a pint of blood.
Meanwhile, in a move of brazen hypocrisy, the same EPA says it absolutely, positively will not reimburse farmers, ranchers, Indian tribes, rafting companies, rafting workers and others who suffered financial losses from the agency's 2015 Gold King Mine spill. The agency claims sovereign immunity. With the spill a distant memory in the collective mindset, the EPA won't pay a dime. Harm from the EPA's offense is not speculative, as it is with Colorado Springs' drainage problems. People are hurting because of the Gold King spill.
The agency's refusal to pay is in stark contrast to its song and dance immediately after the spill, in the midst of an epic public relations crisis. Back then, the EPA promised all injured parties would be reimbursed. We're from the government and we're here to help.
Here's what four Democratic members of Congress think about the agency's reversal.
"We are outraged at this last-ditch move by the federal government's lawyers to go back on the EPA's promise to the people of the state of New Mexico, and especially the Navajo Nation, that it would fully address this environmental disaster that still plagues people of the Four Corners region," said New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, as quoted by the AP. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said immunity allows government "to hide from those whom it harmed."
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As environmental mishaps go, Gold King is a whopper. Colorado Springs has caused no harm that approaches it. The EPA spilled at least 3 million gallons of sludge containing lead, manganese, copper, iron, aluminum and other pollutants. The toxins turned the Animas and San Juan rivers a creepy orange through southwest Colorado, and into New Mexico and Utah.
The polluted water tainted wells belonging to Indian tribes, farmers, ranchers and other rural residents. It prevented irrigation of crops and watering of livestock. It shut down rafting companies, which had to lay off employees. The EPA refuses to resolve 73 claims filed to date.
Declining to pay damages represents only the latest EPA effort to shirk responsibility. Months after the spill, the agency shrugged off the disaster as no big deal. The river, they told us all, was graciously healing itself. Apparently it does that when pollutants are released by the EPA. Water has no such resilience when farmers spill small amounts of fuel or lagoon swill into waterways. When that happens, as previously documented in this space, the EPA sues, fines and locks people up.
The EPA filed suit against the Springs nearly a year after Mayor John Suthers finessed a commitment to spend $460 million to build state-of-the art stormwater facilities. Water customers of Colorado Springs Utilities will pick up the tab. New infrastructure will comply with or exceed federal standards. Whatever money the EPA costs Colorado Springs is capital the city cannot spend expediting improvements to protect clean water.
If EPA officials cared about the public that funds their agency, they would compensate victims of the Gold King spill. If they cared about clean water, they would not obstruct a community's massive effort to protect it. Clearly, the EPA cares mostly about the EPA.
A new president takes office Friday. Let's hope he fixes the inept and hypocritical EPA.
The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Jan. 17
Good grief on governor race
While people complain loudly and often about our nation's system of elections, that system actually works pretty well, mostly. But here's another complaint: Can we please stop stretching out the next election cycle to the barely-cooled heels of the one just past?
State Sen. Mike Johnston, who grew up in Vail and now represents Denver in the Colorado Legislature, Tuesday announced his intention to run for governor. That election is in November — 2018.
It's easy to understand Johnston's desire to quickly enter what's expected to be a fairly crowded field. Current Gov. John Hickenlooper is serving his second and final term in the job, and both Democrats and Republicans will surely line up to try to replace him.
The interest will be particularly keen on the Democratic side. Colorado is still fairly split politically, but Democrats have an edge in statewide races. Thanks, Denver and Boulder.
The Democrats haven't had a competitive gubernatorial primary in 20 years or so, but it looks like a number of the party's heavy hitters want a shot at the top elective job in the state.
According to an Associated Press report, former U.S. Interior Secretary (and Senator) Ken Salazar may be interested. U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter may also be eyeing the job. Denver businessman Noel Ginsburg has already announced his candidacy, and there are others presumably waiting in the wings.
Republicans are also starting to line up for their partisan auditions — with luck, they'll do better than 2014 candidate Dan Maes, an unbelievably flawed candidate whose sole qualification for the job was that he'd apparently looked up "governor" one day in a dictionary.
That's all fine. Our system of government should make sure each party carefully evaluates candidates for office before sending them off to face the general electorate.
It's now (let's take a moment to count) roughly 21 months until Election Day, 2018. Please, candidates, if you're thinking about running for higher office, then do your exploratory work, reach out to possible donors and take care of everything else you need to do.
And then come back in a year or so and tell us all about it.
The Vail Daily, Jan. 17
Some good news in Colorado's falling poverty rate
A recent headline reminds us of some good news here at home we wanted to highlight in these divisive times.
First, the shocker print headline — that hardly sounds like good news.
Eight men. Half the world's wealth.
The poverty-fighting advocates at Oxfam report that the world's eight richest men are worth the combined wealth of 3.6 billion people at the bottom half of the economic spectrum.
Because of a re-calibration in how those statistics are tallied, the disparity between the super-rich and the rest of us stood out far more starkly than in prior years, when it took adding up the worth of more than 60 Richie Riches to get to a similar eye-popping factoid. The findings are meant to be a sober reminder to those soon attending the high-flying economic summit in Davos, Switzerland.
Within the report comes the harrowing information that many families in impoverished countries are making do with less than $2 a day.
"Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty," noted Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International's executive director. "It is fracturing societies and undermining democracy."
No doubt, income inequality also played a role in unsettling our democracy this past election cycle. The populist wave that helped bring Donald Trump to the presidency gained much of its enthusiasm from those critical and fearful of the economic realities of working-class life.
So the good news: Late last year came the information that Colorado's overall poverty rate fell by 5.7 percent to 614,410 people in 2015 from 2010, or since the height of the Great Recession.
Even better news: Childhood poverty decreased here at twice the national rate during the same period. Poverty among those younger than 18 dropped 11.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The nation saw a 4.8 percent decrease during that time.
"It 100 percent has to do with the fact that the economic conditions in the state are so much better than they were five years ago," state demographer Elizabeth Garner said of the news.
Behind that observation is the fact Colorado is business-friendly, and its government generally dedicated to free markets and the rule of law. In many of the countries and regions that make up Oxfam's poorest, neither observation can be made. Corrupt governments breed poor and discriminatory public policies that impoverish workers and those wishing to work.
Here at home, Trump will soon have his chance to shape monetary and trade policy. His early focus on workers is refreshing, but we worry that his anti-trade positions, while seemingly the sort of thing that speaks to worker discontent, could erode some of the progress that has led to reduced poverty and a spare unemployment rate following the economic meltdown that spawned the last recession.
Of course, the good news we're touting is diminished by other realities. According to The Denver Post's Danika Worthington, food banks and poverty assistance programs in Colorado are seeing increased demand. And more than 12 percent of Coloradans remained food insecure in 2015.
Much work remains to be done to improve the lives of working American families. We hope the populist president-elect's policies at least preserve the progress made, and hope also for greater prosperity for those of us who aren't going to Davos.
The Denver Post, Jan. 17
We're falling for the Greeley hyperloop hoopla
Pardon us if, just for a moment, we fall for the hyperloop hoopla.
Earlier this month, The Greeley Tribune ran an unusual news story. The gist of it is this: A Los Angeles-based company called Hyperloop One has selected Colorado as a semifinalist for a place to build a super-fast hyperloop. In this case, the loop would run between Greeley and Denver International Airport.
If you're not exactly sure what a hyperloop is, you're not alone. We weren't sure at first either, and we've still got a lot of questions about exactly how it would work. But in broad strokes, a hyperloop offers a new way to move people and goods. It uses magnetism to move its cargo through an elevated tube. And it goes really fast.
The proposed hyperloop in Colorado would move passengers at 700 mph. Unless you're an astronaut or a fighter pilot, you've probably never gone that fast. Formula 1 race cars usually go about 200 mph. Commercial jetliners usually hit about 500 mph.
Of course, all this is a long way from becoming a reality. First, the company will have to select the Colorado project as a finalist. Then, the state, the company and any other stakeholders will have to work out the serious details involving cost and logistics.
Still, we're glad to see Greeley play such a prominent role in this project.
The city was selected as the end-point location because of the economic growth, commerce and congestion in the area. The Rocky Mountain team — which includes representatives from the Colorado Department of Transportation, Los Angeles-based global infrastructure firm AECOM, the city of Greeley, the city and county of Denver and the Denver International Airport — was looking for a location from DIA to the expanding Front Range.
"As we assessed all of the routes, we really believed an advantage for our application was that the DIA-to-Greeley route had the best potential because of the green space in the area," CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said. "There is some ease with which we could potentially construct (a project) like this along that route."
The project does have the potential to radically alter the way we travel. If it comes to fruition with Greeley as a hub, that will only be a boon for our community.
After fielding 2,600 registrations in five months, Hyperloop One selected 35 semifinalist teams for its Hyperloop One Global Challenge. The challenge began last May and was open to individuals, universities, companies and governments. Participants had to develop comprehensive proposals for using Hyperloop One's technology in their region. Company officials plan to announce the list of finalists in May.
Even if we've got questions about how much it will cost and who will pay for it, we're excited to watch the project progress. You can count us among those who hope all the talk is more than hyperloop hyperbole.
The Greeley Tribune, Jan. 16