NEWS RELEASE
Colorado Department of Law
Attorney General Ken Salazar
1525 Sherman Street - 5th Floor
Denver, Colorado 80203

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Ken Lane
April 16, 1999

303-866-5632

OWENS AND SALAZAR ASK ALLARD FOR HELP IN FORCING FEDS TO COMPLY WITH ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS

Governor Bill Owens and Attorney General Ken Salazar have asked Senator Wayne Allard to re-introduce his bill that would make federal agencies comply with environmental laws to the same extent as private parties.

In a joint letter, Owens and Salazar requested that the senator again introduce his bill to clarify the waiver of sovereign immunity in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the superfund law. That bill would close loopholes currently relied upon by federal agencies to avoid enforcement under existing environmental laws.

'Although CERCLA currently contains a sovereign immunity waiver, it does not include the detailed, explicit language that is necessary to avoid litigation with the federal government and to withstand judicial scrutiny by the courts. The language proposed in your bill would eliminate uncertainty that leads to wasteful and costly litigation, delays in cleanup, and failed enforcement efforts against federal agencies,' the governor and attorney general wrote.

Rocky Flats and Rocky Mountain Arsenal are two of the most polluted sites in the country and bracket the Denver metropolitan area. Other federal facilities posing environmental challenges to the state are the Air Force Academy, Lowry Air Force Base and the Lowry Bombing Range.

"We tell private industry that responsible environmental stewardship is a cost of doing business in this day and age," Salazar said. "The federal government needs to heed its own words. Contamination is no less dangerous when it is caused by a federal agency."

The concept of sovereign immunity derives from the ancient premise that "the king can do no wrong". The principle prevents a government from being sued unless it has first agreed to subject itself to such law suits. Only Congress can waive the federal government's sovereign immunity and it must do so unambiguously.

The letter from Owens and Salazar references a resolution recently sponsored by Salazar and passed unanimously by the National Association of Attorneys General calling for clarification of the waivers of sovereign immunity in the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and CERCLA.