Soap Box

Toss out the disposable mindset
12/19/2019

To the editor,

I love the outdoors and have for as long as I can remember. The blue skies, warm sun, fresh air. Nothing beats the outdoors, and we need to conserve them so that generations to come can enjoy it as we do today.

For that reason, it pains me to bear witness to the rampant consumerism and disposable mindset of our society today. It’s not so much any one issue, but rather our collective behavior toward “buy, use, toss, repeat.” The trash fills up our landfills (if it even makes it there), and leaves us only temporarily satisfied.

I realize it’s a big hurdle, and I’m not trying to claim that I’m perfect. Everyone by nature of living creates trash; it’s impossible to avoid. I’m also not advocating for a Puritanical society where no plastic bags or coffee cups are ever allowed. I think that sort of “progress” sends us in the wrong direction.

However, I do think there are little steps we all can take to lessen our collective impact on the outdoors and environment. Simple things, like walking instead of driving, paying more to eat local, and carrying your groceries in a reusable bag.

This isn’t rocket science, & you don’t have to be perfect. Again, no one is. Just do your best to reduce the amount of single-use items you consume, & reuse them as much as you can. In doing so we’ll continue to be the worthy stewards of this beautiful environment we so lovingly adore.

– Alex Whittow, Durango

Sign the petition to free Rosa
12/19/2019

To the editor,

We’ve all been wondering how and when Rosa Sabido will get to leave sanctuary. She’s been in the Mancos United Methodist Church for over 21⁄2 years. It’s a really long time to be confined just because she is not “documented” as a citizen of the United States. One might ask what makes someone a citizen?

The only way for Rosa to get out of sanctuary is for a private bill for lawful permanent residency to be passed by the two houses of Congress and signed by the President. We have been advised that now is the time to attempt to introduce a private bill in order to move the process along the timeline that we need. In order to do this, we need to find sponsors for this bipartisan private bill.

One of Rosa’s many supporters, Annie Seder, states: “The debate around immigration in the U.S. is fierce and public right now. But what is there to debate about a woman, unable to leave a church for 21⁄2 years without risking being forcibly sent to a different country, away from her family and community of over 30 years? A system where you can try every legal path and still end up without an option isn’t a system that works.”

Pastor Craig from the Mancos Methodist Church comments on why this private bill is important: “As a faith community, we believe it’s important to follow the great commandment to love our neighbors. Rosa is our neighbor and a positive contributing member of our community. Signing this petition is a good way for all of us to stand in solidarity with Rosa and our brothers and sisters who are immigrants”

The 1,000 Days in Sanctuary Campaign will target Colorado’s District 3 representative, Scott Tipton, for the second time. We are engaging with Rep. Tipton because he is up for re-election in 2020, and we hope to bring Rosa’s  case and immigration reform into the state and national conversation as we approach November. We are grateful to be receiving immense strategic support from Michelle Ferrigno Warren, who is a longtime supporter of immigrant rights and is running to represent Colorado in the U.S. Senate against Cory Gardner.

Our goal is to gather 1,500-plus District 3 constituent signatures to publicly present to Rep. Tipton in early 2020. This means that we need registered voters from this district to sign the petition and support Rosa and this private bill as far north as Craig and as far east as Pueblo.

For more information on the campaign, go to rosabe longshere.org.

– Joanie P. Trussel, Manco

Thinking outside the plastic bag
12/12/2019

To the editor,

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when topics centered around global issues arise. Fortunately, we can always make positive changes for ourselves, our communities and our planet. Ultimately, corporations have to take responsibility for plastic packaging. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a voice regarding this issue. Whether it be a plastic bag ban, refusing plastic drinking straws or choosing to buy responsibly packaged products, each small step taken is a step taken in the right direction. We must take steps to shift our focus from the broken recycling system that has a dismally low actual recycling rate to a system that instead reduces plastic production in the first place. It may seem hard to change 50 years of behavior, but shopping with a reusable bag makes more sense than ever before. The Free Bag, Bag Free project has bags at both City Markets made from T-shirts that are available to help with this transition. We have made nearly 4,000 of these bags, and we hope it’s helping you transition to a more responsible way of shopping.

We can do this.

– Sarah Musil Burris, Durango

End polarization with local control
12/12/2019

To the editor,

Polarization, tribalism & Trump are common words we hear today when discussing our politics. Everyone agrees on this problem, but no one quite knows how to solve it.

You’ll see suggestions of taking a step back, taming our anger, changing the dialogue; but these broad calls for societal changes are about as useful as any solution that begins with the phrase, “We need to have a national conversation.”

In my mind, the only solution is to empower state and local governments by redirecting more of the existing tax revenue to state capitals rather than Washington, D.C., thereby shrinking the size and scope of the federal government.

America has more than 300 million citizens – 300 million people from anywhere are going to agree about very few things. That is beautiful and a key feature of American culture. So why force national policies on everyone, when you can implement them locally and then live in a place that more aligns with your views?

In our current system, the vast majority of our tax dollars go to the federal government, which provides only a handful of the essential functions of government. Meanwhile, the government programs we all agree on, things like public schools, first responders, police and road maintenance, are all getting squeezed more and more every year because any taxes more than what are already taken out of our paychecks are very unpopular.

Reform the tax code so that state and local governments can afford to do their jobs, and you’ll see a lot more agreement about government.

No one is going to be able to “lower the temperature” in our politics unless we lower the stakes. Return government to the state capitals and city councils, return the money to the people who earned it, and we’ll see our governments will be more reflective of us and more effective at providing the services they are supposed to provide.

– Tom Mudrak, Durango

The eight pillars of mine clean up
12/12/2019

(Editor’s note: The following letter was submitted to Katherine Jenkins, Community Involvement Coordinator for EPA Region 8, in response to the EPA’s request for comment on its newly released plan for the Bonita Peak Superfund site.)

Dear Ms. Jenkins:

More than four years after EPA’s Gold King incident, we appreciate the opportunity to comment upon EPA’s long overdue development of a strategy to further improve Animas River water quality. Having demonstrably improved water quality during both its brief five years of mining and subsequent reclamation, SGC is in a unique position to provide constructive input. We believe that, to be successful, any strategy must be based upon the following eight pillars.

1. No more delays. It has been more than five years since the Animas River Stakeholders Group developed the timeline for reducing metals loading in the Upper Animas basin and more than two years since the timeline’s target for the implementation of the “Preferred Solution” to further improve Animas River water quality. EPA’s Gold King Incident and conflict-driven conduct since the incident has caused shocking delay. Any more delay is unacceptable.

2. Focus on the Cement Creek Adits. As noted by the ARSG “Reduction of metal loading from (the Cement Creek adits) ... clearly is the overwhelming opportunity to improve water quality in the Animas River downstream of Silverton.” As succinctly stated by William Simon, a founding member ARSG, “If measurable improvements to water quality and aquatic habitat are important goals, then the EPA needs to put their money toward making major reductions in metal loading that can only be achieved by addressing the major draining mine sources located near Gladstone ... The Gladstone draining mines are where the problem lies and where significant achievements can be attained.”

Focusing on Cement Creek will improve water quality to historically high levels and improve the fishery downstream.

3. Run the Gladstone plant at capacity. It is unconscionable that EPA has for over four years run the Gladstone Plant at a fraction of capacity, bypassing hundreds of millions of gallons of metals-laden waters into a tributary of the Animas. According to EPA experts, the Gladstone Plant was designed to treat flows from the Red & Bonita, Mogul, Grand Mogul and American Tunnel, in addition to the Gold King. Running the plant at capacity would materially improve water quality.

4. Close the Red & Bonita Bulkhead. As noted by the State of Colorado, “Bulkhead installation in mines that are determined to be good candidates has the potential to significantly reduce metal loading.” This has been demonstrated by the successful bulkheading by SGC. As demonstrated by decades of sampling, SGC’s engineered concrete bulkheads played a key role in water quality improvements achieved by SGC.

5. Stop wasteful investigations and projects. As stated by a noted commentator, EPA’s approach of endless study “...is not acceptable to anyone, other than federal bureaucrats” and “EPA ... needs to put an end to conducting additional time-consuming studies that are redundant or unnecessary.” EPA’s Interim Record of Decision projects, which are being pursued over objections from the community and will admittedly result in no discernable benefit, are examples of the type of projects that must cease.

6. Quickly remove sites from the listing as appropriate. In order to distract the focus from the Gold King Mine, EPA’s Superfund listing covered over 100,000 acres, including 48 separate sites. Many of these sites should never have been listed. Sites that should not have been listed should be immediately removed from the listing, and other sites should be promptly delisted as warranted.

7. The lead agency must act transparently. Among the first steps should be to: 1) complete the Oct. 17 questionnaire about the Kittimac Facility that EPA has affirmatively refused to answer; and 2) answer the questions about Mayflower drilling contained in my letter to EPA dated Nov. 11, 2019.

8. EPA must step aside as lead agency. It has long been recognized that EPA has a problematic conflict of interest because of its culpability for the Gold King incident. If the BPMD site is ultimately placed on the NPL, EPA’s own liability for what happened prior to, during, and after the GKM release will affect EPA’s decisions concerning the cleanup of the upper Animas River Basin.

More than four years of delay, waste and mismanagement clearly demonstrate that EPA’s conflict of interest has rendered it incapable of properly managing the site. Water quality is too important to allow this to continue, and EPA must immediately step down.

– Kevin Roach, director, Reclamation Operations, Sunnyside Gold Corp.