Friday, June 8, 2018

Scott Tipton weighs in on EPA lawsuit against Colorado Springs

Posted By on Fri, Jun 8, 2018 at 10:25 AM

click to enlarge Rich Mulledy, the city's stormwater manager, stands along Pine Creek last fall where raging waters have carved a deep canyon. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Rich Mulledy, the city's stormwater manager, stands along Pine Creek last fall where raging waters have carved a deep canyon.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, has joined plaintiffs in the EPA's lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs in urging EPA chief Scott Pruitt to stay the course in the Clean Water Act litigation.

Here's some background on the issue. In a nutshell, the EPA decided in March to reopen settlement negotiations without input from other plaintiffs, including the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Then, the state's attorney in the case, Meg Parish, was canned after she wrote a scathing letter to the Department of Justice (which filed the case on the EPA's behalf) urging reconsideration. Parish said in the letter the EPA and state are in a good position to prevail in the lawsuit, which is set for trial in federal court in Denver on Sept. 5.

Here's Tipton's letter, the latest salvo in the dispute:

Dear Administrator Pruitt,

I am writing in regard to the lawsuit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Colorado Public Department of Public Health an Environment (CDPHE) have filed against the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The lawsuit was filed on November 9, 2016, pursuant to Sections 309(b) and (d) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the Colorado Water Quality Control Act.

The City of Colorado Springs’ failure to control stormwater has led to decades of discharge that is not in compliance with state and federal clean water laws. The stormwater has led to sediment buildup in Fountain Creek and created significant problems for downstream communities, especially for Pueblo, Colorado, which is in my Congressional District.

Recent reports that the EPA may re-enter negotiations with the City of Colorado Springs raise questions about the future of the lawsuit and the ability of the EPA to provide long-term certainty to downstream communities that their upstream neighbors are complying with clean water laws.

The long history of stormwater negotiations between Colorado Springs and downstream water users has not yielded positive, lasting results for communities like Pueblo. While I have been encouraged by the commitment demonstrated by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers to solve the long-standing problem, the lawsuit was filed by both the EPA and the CDPHE for a reason. It is imperative that the EPA work to permanently protect the water quality for communities downstream from Colorado Springs.

If you have any questions or wish to discuss this issue further, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers has said he'd rather spend money on stormwater projects than litigation, but the city's failure to fix its drainage system over the years has instilled distrust in downstream communities.

Voters approved a stormwater fee last fall that kicks in on July 1 but litigants in the lawsuit question if the $17 million a year for 20 years will be adequate to reduce flooding and mitigate sediment in Fountain Creek.

Tipton represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Pueblo County.

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