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Lawmaker considers legislation to sue EPA

Coram hopes to empower AG Coffman

Rep. Don Coram said he is considering introducing legislation next year that would empower the attorney general’s office to file a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency after the Animas River spill.

Coram, a Republican from Montrose, said he wants to make sure Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has “all the tools” she needs to file a lawsuit against the agency.

“Colorado must have every option on the table to recover damages from the EPA at any time in the future,” Coram said. “I am exploring legislation that ensures Attorney General Coffman will have the full support of the Legislature to file suit against the EPA to make the citizens impacted by this disaster whole.”

During a visit to Durango on Wednesday, Coffman said she is exploring the possibility of a lawsuit, but she stopped short of saying that she believes one is warranted. Coffman was not sure whether a lawsuit would even be valid, especially considering immunity laws provided to government agencies.

“I don’t count out the possibility that I ... might in fact be looking at a claim against the EPA and the federal government,” Coffman said during an event at Rotary Park with attorneys general from New Mexico and Utah. “But it’s too soon to know that.”

Meanwhile, Rep. J. Paul Brown on Thursday said he would make himself available to the public to assist with navigating the aftermath of the Animas River spill.

Brown, a Republican from Ignacio, is offering his cellphone, 759-4157, and email address, brownjpaul@yahoo.com.

“Like every citizen that is affected by the EPA’s careless contamination of the Animas River, I am very concerned about the long-term impacts of the heavy metals released into this region’s water supply. I have been in close contact with local and EPA officials and want citizens to know I am available to answer questions or discuss concerns at any time,” Brown said.

State and federal authorities said this week water quality in the river returned to pre-event conditions after the Environmental Protection Agency caused an estimated 3 million gallons of mining sludge to pour into the Animas, turning it a nauseating mustard-yellow color. Initial results showed a spike in heavy metals. The river remained closed on Thursday, as federal and state officials await the results of sediment testing.

Impacts to individuals and the community are just being documented. The EPA has established a claims process for damages related to the spill, such as if a rafting company had to close. Farmers also were forced to shut irrigation ditches and domestic water wells may have been impacted.

“We need to measure and document every aspect of this disaster’s impact on our economy and hold the EPA fully accountable,” Brown said.

pmarcus@durangoherald.com

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