Rep. Doug Lamborn Hopes Trump’s EPA Screws Over Pueblo

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reports, GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs is appealing to the Environmental Protection Agency–that is, the new EPA under President Donald Trump–to drop a lawsuit filed by that agency and joined by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Pueblo County over the city of Colorado Springs’ mismanagement of sometimes pollution-laden stormwater flowing down Fountain Creek to the Arkansas River in Pueblo:

Pueblo County officials bristled upon learning that Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., is lobbying the Environmental Protection Agency to drop its water quality lawsuit against Colorado Springs.

Pueblo County Commission Chairman Terry Hart said Lamborn has played no role in the years of negotiations between Colorado Springs and county officials over stormwater controls, adding: “He should stay the heck out of it.”

…Hart countered that Lamborn is ignoring the importance of the lawsuit in forging a better relationship between Pueblo County and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and that city’s council.

Hart said Suthers’ support for spending $460 million over 20 years is a fragile commitment between Pueblo County and the current leadership in Colorado Springs.

“The threat of that lawsuit was critically important in our reaching an intergovernmental agreement with Colorado Springs,” Hart said Tuesday. “We joined that lawsuit to protect our interests and right now, Colorado Springs is doing a good job of honoring its commitment. But the lawsuit would nail down the agreement to withstand the political winds that blow back and forth.” [Pols emphasis]

Lamborn and Colorado Springs argue that their agreement to improve management of stormwater from that city negates the basis of the lawsuit. But Pueblo officials counter that the lawsuit (or the threat thereof) was what motivated Colorado Springs to come to the table at all–and if it were to be dropped before resolution, especially before that remediation work was complete, Colorado Springs might find itself substantially less motivated to care about the polluted stormwater that flows downstream into Pueblo.

With that said, Lamborn’s push to get the EPA to abandon this lawsuit is meeting resistance from fellow Republican Rep. Scott Tipton, who represents Pueblo:

“While Congressman Tipton has been encouraged by the commitment demonstrated by Mayor (John) Suthers to solve this long-standing problem, the lawsuit was filed by both the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for a reason,” a spokesman said. [Pols emphasis]

It will be interesting to see if Tipton sticks to his guns in the event of an adverse decision by the EPA regarding this lawsuit, but for now it’s good to see him at least paying lip service standing up to Rep. Lamborn and Colorado Springs. Working-class Pueblo has long felt slighted by its larger neighbor to the north, whose military-based economy gives them economic stability as well as population growth that has worsened pollution along Fountain Creek. The promise of new funding to protect Fountain Creek was critical in Pueblo’s approval of the Southern Delivery System, which connected Colorado Springs water supply to Pueblo Reservoir.

All told, it’s just another consequence of the political sea change caused by Trump’s surprise election. Everyone with something to gain from rolling back environmental protections, or for that matter any regulations viewed as impediments to progress as defined by interests favored by the Trump administration, is making their play.

And without vigorous opposition, it’s always communities like Pueblo who will get the shaft.

7 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Lamborn actually working on an issue that doesn't benefit the military? Rumor has it that State Senator Owen Hill is considering a primary run next year against Lamborn. Guess that's enough to make Lamborn want to have a record to run on. And who cares about Pueblo anyway (tongue in cheek)? It's outside the 5th District. 

  2. Republican 36 says:

    I'm a little confused by the statement in the thread:

    "But Pueblo officials counter that the lawsuit was what motivated Colorado Springs to come to the table at all–and if it were to be dropped before resolution, especially before that remediation work was complete, Colorado Springs might find itself substantially less motivated to care about the polluted storm water that flows downstream into Pueblo."

    The intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between Colorado Springs and Pueblo County was signed and sealed before the lawsuit was filed and it contains a twenty year program at a cost of $460 million to Colorado Springs. The IGA is enforceable in court. The pending lawsuit brought by the EPA and the state of Colorado does not affect the IGA or the obligations Colorado Springs agreed to undertake with Pueblo County. On top of that, in a referendum supported by Mayor Suthers and the Colorado Springs city council, the citizens of that city voted in April to add an additional $12 million to their storm water program. 

    If the lawsuit disappeared tomorrow, Colorado Springs remains legally obligated to a $460 million storm water program under the terms of the IGA. The EPA lawsuit is irrelevant to that obligation.

    • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

      We're simply restating what Pueblo Commissioner Terry Hart himself said in the preceding quote:

      “The threat of that lawsuit was critically important in our reaching an intergovernmental agreement with Colorado Springs,” Hart said Tuesday. “We joined that lawsuit to protect our interests and right now, Colorado Springs is doing a good job of honoring its commitment. But the lawsuit would nail down the agreement to withstand the political winds that blow back and forth.”

      We added “or the threat thereof” to clarify. Hope that helps.

  3. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    What this means for people on the ground in Pueblo:

    (I mean, literally on the ground, next to overflowing Fountain Creek):

    Camps of homeless people are flooded regularly during spring runoff. No, there are not shelter beds for them to go to.

    Low-lying communities, which tend to  be low income people, also get flooded.

    So the volume of uncontained, unrestrained water is one issue. That's mainly what the negotiated IGA between Pueblo and the Springs resolved. They have a plan now to build some infrastructure to slow down and contain and treat that runoff, which is good.

    But the second issue is that this rushing volume of water is untreated, (there is no known way to eliminate PFCs, although filtering helps), and has very high levels of PFCs. This is like a Flint water issue. The PFCs cause birth defects and nervous system problems in young children. Communities downstream from the Sprngs, such as Security and Widefield, are buying bottled water because even the treated water still contains unsafe amounts of PFCs.

    Pueblo has its own pollution problems – the steel industry left much of the town's soil contaminated with heavy metals. Arsenic and lead poisoning are still a threat to Pueblo's health and economy, and years of citizen activism spurred the EPA to put in a  superfund site to clean it up. So Pueblo doesn't need any other towns to share their pollution problems.

    Here's a Denver Post story from a year ago about the problem, with a picture of the reddish, sludgy water of Cheyenne Creek, which feeds Fountain Creek, which flows south through the little towns of Security and Widefield and Fountain to Pueblo.

    Photo from ethanbeute.com

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