Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Water pollution bill progresses in state Senate

Posted By on Tue, Feb 11, 2020 at 11:38 AM

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A state bill that will increase criminal penalties for violating water quality laws was approved on second reading by the Senate on Feb. 11, and is likely to get the Senate's final approval this week, before it heads to the state House.

Senate Bill 8, sponsored by Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, would increase penalties for polluting state waters from $12,500 currently to $25,000 per day for “criminal negligence” violations, as well as a year in jail, and from $25,000 currently to $50,000 per day for “knowing and intentional” violations, as well as up to three years behind bars.

Knowing or intentional pollution would be prosecuted as a class 5 felony.

While testifying to the Senate Agricultural & Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 6, Winter said the bill aligns Colorado's own pollution laws under the Water Quality Control Act with the federal Clean Water Act governing the same crimes.

"Federal action has been going down in recent years to protect our waterways," Winter testified, saying that recent reports showed the number of new cases prosecuted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency are at a 20-year low, and that the agency was too short-staffed to adequately police pollution.

No water pollution crimes have been prosecuted under Colorado law, while only two have been prosecuted under federal law in the past 10 years, Jason King testified on behalf of the Colorado Department of Law, which supports the bill.

The bill is also sponsored by Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette.

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