Was cleanup a "taking'?
It's a case with bizarre implications: A Boulder,
Colo., company that owns land on which the disastrous Summitville
Mine was built is suing the state for allowing the disaster to
happen and the federal government for spending millions to clean it
up. Filed in Rio Grande County District Court, the landowners' suit
claims the state was negligent in issuing a permit for mining at
the southen Colorado site. A second, federal court suit charges the
EPA broke the law by implementing long-term cleanup at the site
when regular water-treatment procedures would have taken care of
the problem. Now, property owners say, they can't mine or sell the
land. Roger Flynn, of the Boulder-based environmental group Western
Mining Action Project, asks, "What's a body to do? If you permit a
mine, it's a taking. If you don't, it's a taking, and if you clean
it up, it's a taking." Flynn calls the lawsuits "the height of
hypocrisy," since owners collected substantial income from leasing
the property while the cyanide heap-leach mine was in operation.
Colorado Farm Bureau spokesman Ray Christiansen says the suits "are
not what we had in mind" in supporting new takings legislation at
the state and federal levels. "This is more of a reverse takings
thing," he says.