DENVER (CBS4) – A proposal by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, up for debate this week, could allow industries to discharge more pollution into Colorado’s rivers and streams, specifically urban waterways that have already been heavily polluted. The measure, which would roll back the state’s anti-degradation rule, has been met with fierce opposition from local, state, and federal officials, as well as several conservation groups.
The commission will vote on the issue Friday, June 18, at 1 p.m.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Environmental Protection Agency testified against the proposal during a 10-hour hearing on Monday. CPW declined to comment until the commission has voted on the issue.
Adams County commissioners and a Commerce City councilperson spoke against the measure on Monday, as well, saying the rule change is an environmental justice issue that could jeopardize urban rivers like the South Platte.
“Why should the kids, families in these urban communities deserve any fewer protections for their water that the rest of the state should enjoy?” said Adams County Commissioner Steve O’Dorisio, who testified Monday. “Why should they lower the bar for protections along these rivers?”
Overall, nearly 60 people spoke against the proposal during Monday’s hearing in the public comment hearing, citing concerns with potential impacts on urban communities of color.
Mely Whiting with the conservation group Trout Unlimited also spoke at Monday’s hearing.
She says the proposal stems from a decision last year regarding a stretch of the South Platte River. The river had improved in quality so much, that it qualified for stronger anti-degradation standards, but she says the commission decided not to allow it.
“The Commission decided that they were not going to allow that to happen, saying ‘we’re going to keep it under that designation that doesn’t allow anti-degradation review,’ and the rules in place at the time, which is the rule they’re trying to change now, didn’t allow them to do that,” Whiting said. “They did it anyway.”
So, Whiting says the commission is now looking to roll back policies that would make last year’s decision feasible. She said the reason for last year’s decision was also controversial.
“When you listen to the audio from that hearing, you have conversations deliberations of the commission talking about how this anti-degradation protection really should apply only to clear mountain streams and not to urban areas and I think that when that that message was conveyed to the public to the various communities that are impacted, including Commerce City and Adams County… I think that there was a lot of outrage,” Whiting said.
Whiting says rule changes like these…