Gov. John Hickenlooper, President Barack Obama and/or President-Elect Donald Trump should end a lawsuit against Colorado Springs. Let our community fund clean water, not bureaucrats and lawyers.
A news story by Gazette reporter Billie Stanton Anleu explains the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment filed a lawsuit Wednesday for water quality violations. These agencies are headed by elected officials — Hickenlooper, Obama and eventually Trump — who claim to be our friends.
The whole thing pertains to infrastructure problems Mayor John Suthers and other city officials are working to resolve.
The federal and state agencies want millions in penalties and will cost the city millions more in lawyer and court fees. The money could otherwise go toward solving the problems they purportedly worry about.
"They know they have a mayor and City Council that recognize the problem, understand the problem and are intent on fixing the problem," Mayor John Suthers said, as quoted by Anleu. "Rather than working with us to get this done, they file a lawsuit."
No one has a better understanding of government legal shenanigans than Suthers, who served two terms as Colorado's attorney general. The lawsuit provides a classic example of government officials exacerbating problems, rather than resolving them, for the people they serve.
"Every single dime going to litigate this thing and pay fines should be going into fixing the problem," Suthers said.
As explained by Anleu, the city has taken extraordinary measures to resolve problems central to the lawsuit. They include:
- A $460 million, 20-year intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo County to build 71 major stormwater projects
- Increased full-time staff of stormwater inspectors and engineers from 28 to 49
- Increased spending on stormwater from $5 million in 2015 to $19 million a year
- A $3 million detention pond on Sand Creek; spending $2 million to rehabilitate wash-out areas, remedy sediment-transport issues and improve water quality since 2013 flooding, and more.
A lawsuit might be in order, if Colorado Springs continued shirking responsibility for stormwater management. Given the city's willingness to urgently address problems, the lawsuit is predatory. It's about reallocating money from local taxpayers to state and federal agencies that are supposed to serve us.
This should not be resolved in court. Suthers has a good relationship with Hickenlooper, who supervises Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Director Larry Wolk. With one call, the governor could end the state's role in this suit.
Hickenlooper has worked hard to create jobs and economic development in Colorado Springs, so we can't imagine he wants his agency causing us needless expense. Hickenlooper has a good relationship with Obama and should persuade him to end to the EPA's participation in the suit.
If Obama won't tell EPA Director Gina McCarthy to back down, Suthers should talk to Trump. The president-elect made routine visits to Colorado Springs during his campaign, even visiting with The Gazette's editorial board, and promised to help the local economy by reducing federal burdens. The community's voters overwhelmingly supported him. If this suit persists, Trump should tell the next EPA director to drop it.
Let Colorado Springs fix infrastructure and protect clean water, rather than waste money on legal costs and bureaucratic fines.
The gazette editorial board