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.