Group claims state broke new law with Cotter uranium cleanup deal

The grassroots citizen’s activist group Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste (CCATW) this week sued state radiation regulators for allegedly violating a new state law mandating greater transparency in the uranium processing industry.

The Uranium Processing Accountability Act passed last legislative session calls for public notice and comment periods when state regulators – in this case officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) – negotiate the amount of money companies must post against future cleanup costs or pay for ongoing cleanup efforts.

As revealed by the Colorado Independent in June, Cotter Corp. disagreed with state estimates that it would cost $43.7 million to clean up the Cotter Mill near Cañon City. CDPHE officials reportedly agreed to just $20.2 million in cleanup costs at the EPA Superfund Cleanup site.

The lawsuit (pdf) claims the deal lacked transparency as required by the new law.

“It appears regulators ignored this requirement by conducting closed-door negotiations instead of conducting a review which was open to public involvement and timely public scrutiny,” said Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, a sponsor of the new law. “I share the frustration felt by the citizens of Canon City.”

A spokeswoman for the CDPHE said Wednesday afternoon that the state still had not been served, and that she wouldn’t be able to comment anyway. She did point out that the Cotter Mill case is unrelated to the company’s refusal to pay a $55,000 state fine levied for failure to clean up a contaminated pond at an old uranium mine in Jefferson County that is allegedly threatening the Denver water supply.