The Water Quality Commission in Colorado is considering proposals that could weaken the force of the “anti-degradation rule” that has been in effect in that state for more than three decades. The rule is that firms whose operations degrade the water, and who seek a new or renewed water quality permit, must make a compelling argument that their activities are an unavoidable part of important economic development or civil improvement.
This year’s controversy over the WQC echoes one a year ago. In June 2020 the same commission, against the advice of its staff and other state agencies, decline to upgrade protection of two particular Colorado rivers, the South Platte and Clear Creek. The latter is a tributary of the former: Clear Creek flows passed the Molson Coors plant on its way to the South Platte. In a hearing about these rivers, Commissioner Paul Frohardt said that he believes that the anti-degradation policy makes sense “and will have broad public support when it’s focused on truly high quality waters.” The implication was apparently that Clear Creek is sufficiently low-quality anyway that it is a lost cause for an anti-degradation policy.
The Thing to Know:
The WQC seems now to want to generalize the rule hat it only suggested last year: it will no longer seek to defend from further degradation waters it sees as already irredeemably low quality.