Protecting the EPA from lawsuits

Last week the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee held a hearing on a bill that clarified existing statute that there are no prerequisites for individuals to sue the federal government for negligence. This bill did not change existing law to make it easier to sue.
It died on a party-line vote, 5-4.

This might be one of the shortest bills legislators review all session. The bill is only 21 lines long, 15 of which are required by every bill. Here’s the text of the important parts of the bill:

4 13-21-129. United States as defendant. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY
5 OTHER PROVISION OF STATE LAW, THERE ARE NO PREREQUISITES
6 ESTABLISHED BY STATE LAW, OTHER THAN THOSE APPLICABLE TO A TORT
7 COMMITTED BY A PARTY OTHER THAN THE UNITED STATES, TO SUE THE
8 UNITED STATES AS AUTHORIZED BY THE "FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS ACT",
9 28 U.S.C. SECS. 1346 (b) AND 2671 TO 2680.

According to The Durango Herald, “Southwest Colorado feels forgotten.” Why? Because Rep. Coram’s bill would have given Southwest Colorado grounds to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for negligence, and legislators voted it down. According to Rep. Coram, an EPA administrator said, “We knew the possibility of [the Animas River Spill] happening. Washington, D.C. knew this was a real possibility.”

So there you have it. The EPA and Washington, D.C. knew about the real possibility of millions of gallons of toxic minerals spilling into the Animas River. Rather than doing something about it, five members of the House State Affairs Committee killed the bill.

The Animas Spill is not too unlike the situation in Flint Michigan, where the government unintentionally poisoned the water supply. Except in Michigan, the government did something about it. The legislature approved $30 million in relief funds. Colorado’s legislature rejects relief.

Oh, and another difference: strictly partisan documentary filmmaker Michael Moore called for the resignation of Michigan’s Republican governor, but did not call for the resignation of Colorado’s chief Democrat. Can’t say we’re surprised.