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Mayor Suthers celebrates rollback on environmental protections, and we're disappointed

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On Jan. 23, Springs Mayor John Suthers stood up with Rep. Doug Lamborn and others at the Pioneers Museum and, according to an Environmental Protection Agency news release on the event, “celebrated the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.”

This rollback of Obama-era limits on the pollution of wetlands and small waterways, including bodies of water that only flow part of the year, was sought by mining companies, builders and agribusiness.

President Trump says the new rule will “allow states to manage their water resources based on their own needs and what their farmers and ranchers want.” (Removing ditches from federal regulation is what golf course owners wanted, and you’ll recall that President Trump owns a few of those.)

The National Wildlife Federation claims the new rule will “remove protections from more than half of our nation’s wetlands and millions of miles of streams. These changes would allow roughly half of our nation’s wetlands to be drained, filled or destroyed. Many of the streams that flow into drinking water sources would be vulnerable to pollution from oil spills, pipelines, or runoff from hog farms without so much as a federal fine.”

“Allowing chemicals or waste to be dumped into headwaters during the dry part of the season harms the people who live downstream when the rainy season comes,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit that works to conserve freshwater streams. “You can bet on gravity every time, and whatever is in our headwaters will ultimately end up in our own backyards.”



This new rule is what we’ve come to expect from the Trump administration’s EPA, run as it is by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler. It’s one of almost a hundred environmental rules rolled back in the past three years, though legal challenges have brought some back and others are still in litigation.
Old-timers among us have found in John Suthers similarities to the Republicans of our youth — civil, statesmanlike, relatively even-handed. But acts like this — kissing the fat corporate rump of Donald Trump’s EPA — align him more with the make-a-quick-buck-trash-the-planet wing of his party, represented dependably and almost gleefully by Rep. Lamborn. “I was pleased to cosponsor this important legislation to fight back against the Obama Administration’s regulatory overreach,” says Lamborn on his website, touting his support of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.

That’s what we’ve come to expect from Lamborn — a guy with a League of Conservation Voters lifetime score of just 3 percent. But we were nonplussed when Colorado Springs’ mayor chose to stand up in support of the EPA’s move when even the agency’s own research shows that a third of the nation’s wetlands and almost half of our rivers and streams are already in “poor biological condition."

Though perhaps this is how Mayor Suthers has always felt about the environment — that it’s just a commodity. We remember that he was opposed to giving Springs voters a voice on transfers of our parkland: “It’s very conceivable to me that some rich person is going to offer us a deal that needs to close by the end of the year for tax purposes,” Suthers said last summer. “He wants an acre, and he’s going to give us 400 acres, and we’re going to say, ‘Sorry, we have to take it to a vote [of the people].’”

Even Richard Nixon, for all his faults, believed the planet needed protecting, and established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. He knew, as few Republicans today seem to, that it’s insane to foul your own nest. Just as it’s insane to “celebrate” the rollback of water protections in a headwaters state like Colorado — especially considering that people in his own community are dealing with health issues caused by toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals in their water supply.

Mayor Suthers, we are disappointed in you.

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