Colorado House Republicans

House GOP Newsletter

Monday, August 22, 2016

♦The Gold King Mine Spill one year later: What is known and what remains to be addressed
♦House GOP Employment Opportunities
♦House GOP Press   ♦In the News   ♦Tweets of the Week   ♦Capitol Pictures

The Gold King Mine Spill one year later: What is known and what remains to be addressed  

By Representative J. Paul Brown (R-Ignacio)

I, like every person who knows how important the Animas River is for our environment and economy, remember August 5th, 2015 like it was yesterday. The images of the yellow-plume that stained our river are as bright in my mind today as they were in the news reports a year ago. I’ll never forget the pit in my stomach thinking about every rancher, farmer, business owner, and family relying on this river for their livelihood. Now a little more than a year later, things are returning to normal, but there are still many unresolved issues. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was frustratingly slow to respond and accept responsibility, but I appreciate its willingness to start reimbursing affected parties. From day one I have been engaged in the recovery efforts, and as of today, here’s what is known and what remains to be addressed.

Having talked with the ground crew shortly after the spill, it’s clear this tragedy was preventable. I was impressed with their experience and knowledge, but unfortunately they did not use adequate caution to determine the volume and power of the water behind the earthen dam at the mouth of the Gold King Mine. Every precaution must be made to prevent large deposits of heavy minerals from flowing out of old mines and into surface water. Moving forward I hope the EPA learns from this tragedy and adjusts its methodology accordingly. Even with superfund status, implementation must be calculated, and ground crews cannot be expected to stretch resources to the point of compromising a sound reclamation plan.

Fortunately, many tests indicate the Animas River is recovering well. In fact, with the treatment measures in place at the mouth of the mine spill, surface water quality may be better than before the spill. It’s a tremendous relief to see tourists involved in boating, fishing and exploring the river, and I feel confident people and livestock are safe to drink from wells.

Finally, from my conversations with Congressman Tipton, city and county officials and local residents, it’s evident that the EPA needs to do a better job of communicating with affected parties. The City of Durango is still owed nearly $400,000, and dozens of private citizens are wondering if their claims will ever be reviewed or paid. To date, the EPA has reimbursed La Plata County about 65 percent of the costs it incurred, but the City of Durango is still owed more than 85 percent of the money it spent treating water, securing the river, and for the loss in water sales. None of the 68 entities that filed claims, which includes many local businesses, have been reimbursed. I recently spoke to the EPA representative in Colorado and learned that many claims are still in the review process. Hopefully, the EPA agrees to pay these claims in a reasonable time. Until then, I will continue to monitor this process, and am working with local officials and Colorado’s congressional delegation to help ensure everyone affected by this tragedy can recover their costs and move forward. I understand working with the government can be difficult, and if you have questions or concerns about the spill or the EPA’s progress please contact me directly.

Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and you can keep up with all of our caucus updates by following us on Twitter and Instagram, liking us on Facebook, subscribing to our YouTube channel or visiting  
J. Paul Brown             
State Representative
HD 59
(303) 866-2914

In The News
  • Colorado's unemployment rate, for the fourth consecutive month, ticked up slightly to 3.8 percent in July. But the state still added 14,000 non-farm payroll jobs from June to July as the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment released seemingly conflicting results from a pair of jobs surveys. (" Colorado unemployment ticks up again in month of conflicting jobs reports," Denver Business Journal, 08/19/2016) 

  • The Colorado Department of Transportation took the first significant step this week toward the future widening of Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock. State House Representatives Paul Lundeen (R-Monument) and Terri Carver (R-Colorado Springs) made the announcement Thursday afternoon. ("CDOT approves $3.75M to study I-25 improvements north of Colorado Springs ," Colorado Springs Gazette, 08/18/2016)

  • Aetna will abandon Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges next year in more than two-thirds of the counties where it now sells the coverage, the latest in a string of defections by big insurers that will limit customer choice in many markets. Dwindling insurer participation is becoming a concern, especially for rural markets, in part because competition is supposed to help control insurance price hikes, and many carriers have already announced plans to seek increases of around 10 percent or more for 2017. (" Aetna to abandon many state health insurance exchanges next year, limiting choice for consumers ," Associated Press, 08/17/2016)  

  • Voters may be asked for a record-setting sum to pay for public education in Colorado this year. Nearly $4 billion worth of bond issues and mill levy overrides to fund capital improvements, buttress technology purchases and beef up staffing at hundreds of schools statewide could end up on the November ballot, according to data provided by the Colorado School Finance Project. (“Voters may face record level of Colorado school funding measures in November,” Denver Post, 08/08/2016)  

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency paid more than $1 million last week to reimburse affected communities, a year after an EPA-led remediation operation at a Colorado mine backfired and sent three million gallons of toxic water into nearby waterways. (“EPA continues to make amends for spill at Colorado mine,” Colorado Springs Gazette, 08/12/2016)  

  • The 2016 ballot initiative to give every Coloradan healthcare won’t be able to cover its costs, according to a study released Monday by the Colorado Health Institute. That’s despite the fact that the proposed amendment would more than triple the amount of taxes collected by the state. The study suggests ColoradoCare would have to cut benefits, raise taxes or reduce payments to doctors and hospitals to achieve long-term financial solvency. ("A Study: ColoradoCare can't cover its costs," KUSA, 08/08/2016) 

Tweets of the Week

Paul Lundeen @Paul_Lundeen

Supporting Sarah's Home a place for young women rescued from human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Sgt. Craig Simpson of CSPD made it clear this is a problem hurting us here in Colorado. Sarah's Home, healing the whole person, mind, body and spirit.#coleg
John Becker @RepJBecker

Dissappointed that a land grant university would take money from this group! New Belgium Brewing makes gift to CSU…  

Kevin Van Winkle @RepKVW

Thrilled to see HB1051 by @RepKVW & Senator @Chris_Holbert become effective today!! Great for CO #PropertyRights & #LimitedGovmt! #coleg

Capitol Pictures

Representative Kit Roupe (R-Colorado Springs) helping out at the ARC Pikes Peak Region.
Representatives Lori Saine (R-Firestone) and Don Coram (R-Montrose), members of the Water Resources Review Committee, take part in a discussion about Western Slope water issues.
Assistant Minority Leader Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park) and Representative Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) meeting with representatives of the Mile High United Way in Denver.

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