As we move into summer, we will see the Colorado General Assembly conclude its work by June 12. Adjourning a month later than in most years, legislators delayed their work this year to allow the pandemic to lessen and more citizens to become vaccinated.
Many Coloradoans who observe the Colorado legislature have stated that Colorado will look dramatically different once this legislature adjourns. Majority Democrats passed many progressive pieces of legislation and new fees including major rewrites to Colorado air quality and environmental laws in the name of “environmental justice” or protecting “disproportionately affected communities.”
We hope the General Assembly resists the aggressive demands of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to create an enforcement provision allowing the Department to take enforcement actions against entities they believe are violating Colorado’s clean water laws who engage in dredge and fill activities.
The Department pursued legislation last session as well as this year to create a permitting program to fill “gaps” they believe were created by President Trump’s revised Waters of the United States rule which became effective this spring. A federal court overturned a temporary stay issued by a Denver District Court last summer that prevented the Trump rule from becoming effective in Colorado.
Legislators asking difficult questions have heard from their local governments, and business community constituents have frustrated the Department’s efforts to steamroll the passage of legislation. Despite the Department holding limited weekly stakeholder meetings (45-minute Zoom calls with a “hard stop”), stakeholders continued to request the Department to seriously consider valid concerns and questions.
Though we can’t predict the outcome of this policy debate, I can tell the CMA membership that our advocacy efforts on this issue have been supported by our members in the form of participation in several workgroups hosted by the Colorado Water Congress, and coordination of members engaging in the lobbying efforts at the capitol.
Special thanks to Samantha Anderson of Peabody who serves as CMA’s representative to the Colorado Water Congress’ State Affairs Committee, and Jim Sanderson, another State Affairs Committee member who serves on a special workgroup at the Water Congress specifically to address the dredge and fill issues.
Our Government Affairs Committee, chaired by Jim Sanderson and Water Quality Committee, chaired by Chantell Johnson of Tri-State Generation and Transmission have also provided strong technical and policy support to CMA deliberations on this issue.
I think it’s important to note how CMA members have pulled together to address this issue despite what will be a tough year for our industry and Colorado’s business community. I appreciate the hard work and coordination of our membership on this issue.
On another note, the CMA staff has been considering the manner in which we will begin hosting in-person committee meetings and events. I was gratified to hear from members at our last Board meeting that many of their organizations are beginning to welcome both staff and visitors. That’s good news as I am eager to visit CMA members to finally present (along with the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety) awards earned by CMA members over the last two years.
The CMA Golf Tournament will be our first in-person event in nearly a year and we are excited to see everyone there! We are working with the golf course to organize our tournament in such a way that members can socialize in a safe manner.
We also are listening to what members are saying about returning to in-person committee meetings. I know that most people are “Zoomed out” and want to meet again in person, and we look forward to doing that when appropriate. One indicator I have found useful is to watch the actions of State Government in their decision-making process, as many CMA members regularly participate in agency meetings.
Thank you for your continued support for CMA during the pandemic. We know it’s been tough for our members in a difficult business climate, made worse by actions of Colorado’s General Assembly. Still, we remain optimistic about Colorado’s mining industry and the ability to come together and succeed.