Just how bad is the EPA disaster in Colorado?

Ronald Reagan: Government is not the solution to the problem.  Government is the problem.

Last Wednesday the Environmental Protection Agency was involved in a major screw-up that has the potential of seriously affecting and entire ecosystem.  Details of what has happened is still sketchy because it’s apparently not being covered widely in the news media yet.  The EPA was working on cleaning up contaminated water in old abandoned mines in the Colorado area and after plugging up one mine the created a water backlash the resulted in a blowout from another exit to the mine resulting in 3 million gallons of contaminated water dumping into the Animas River.  The incident occurred at 10:30 in the morning and by 8 o’clock that evening it had reached Durango, Colordao, 50 miles away as it worked its way into New Mexico.  In Durango hundreds had line the banks of the river to watch it turn the foul yellow color.


Originally the EPA had set the estimate at 1 million gallons that had flooded the Animas River but that was already being questioned after the initial report.  Sunday evening the much higher 3 million gallon estimate was released by the EPA but some are saying that’s still an underestmation.  After the debacle the EPA was asked if the contaminated water would make its way into the well water and a spokesman from the EPA said they didn’t know.  That was a statement made in either absolute incompetence or a lie.  Of course this was going to make it into the well water….it’s part of an ecosystem and that’s how ecosystem work. It;s also going to make it’s way through streams that break off the Animas and spill into nearby lakes.

It’s not like the EPA didn’t expect a blowout as a result of plugging up the entrance of another part of the mines.  They built a dirt dam to hold back water that would escape in the event of a blowout but it was essentially as useful act of prevention.  The blowout tore through the makeshift dirt dam and poured into the Animas River.

Let’s all understand the magnitude of this epic failure on the part of the EPA.  The Animas river is a 126 mile long river system that spills into the San Juan RIver (363 miles long) and is part of the Colorado River system.  The Animas River generates more than $5 million in income to the area from rafting and kayaking alone. It’s also a a source for freestone fisheries and is a popular fishing area populated with rainbows, browns, Colorado River cutthroat and brook trout. It is considered a gold medal fishery above Rivera Bridge Crossing in Colorado.

More importantly It’s a major source of water through irrigation for farming. The recently completed Durango Pumping Plant provides water for 57,100 acres of farmland in the Lake Nighthorse area. The Animas is also a water source for Native American’s with the river traveling through Ute and Navajo lands.

20150807_091215_animas-river-mapA freestone fishery is an area with slower moving water that while making it ideal for fishing, it’s also an ideal place for contaminated sediment to make it’s way into the banks of the river and along the river bed.  There are areas along the river where this contaminated sludge is already 1/2 inch thick.  Any future rainfall has the potential of stirring up this contaminated sediment creating future harm for months and years to come.

Initial test as to the amount of damage have already been done but the EPA is not releasing that information to the public at this point in time but EPA apologists are already spinning this to try and downplay the environmental impact.  One article reportedly compared the acidic content in the river to a cup of coffee.  That same cup of coffee however doesn’t have the same levels of of arsenic, lead and other heavy metal toxins.

The EPA had originally set out in a project to clean out old mines but met with understandable resistance from locals.  The EPA cited the areas history of mining as the reason for their desire to step in and begin exerting controls over areas of the land.  In the past, as miners dug into the mountain, they would sometimes strike water which would then flood the mines.  In 1978 an incident occurred where a mine had been dug beneath Lake Emma in the area and the Lake broke through flooding the mine.  No lives were lost in that disaster but it had stopped the mining efforts in that tunnel.  The water in these mines eventually works it’s way into the rivers and streams but it does so mostly through an underground system that allows for some form of limited filtration and hasn’t demonstrated a real environmental impact with fish and drinking water being safe….until now.  All that has changed now.

After establishing a superfund the EPA went in and took charge of the clean up.  The concerns of federal controls over local lands, that initially seemed a minor form of concern, has now become a reality placing the entire region at the mercy of the EPA.  Farmers, at this critical time of the year in the farming cycle are without irrigation water for their crops which, while locally devastating, will have national impact as well impacting food supply.  It’s likely to have an impact on fish in the area but what about wildlife and farm animals.  While the local residents have been told not to drink water from wells and bottled water is being brought in to meet water demands, animals are still going to be drinking this water and what impact it will have on them remains to be seen.  The streams that break off from the river are going to provide drinking water for these animals and only time will tell of the environmental impact of this disaster.

Native Americans are going to be seriously impacted by this disaster.  After years of fighting for water rights an agreement was made that allowed for the building of reservoir that was to be filled with water pumped out of the Animas River.  That’s not likely to happen anytime in the near future as a result of this action by the EPA.

The whole thing is sadly reminiscent of the Centralia debacle here in Pennsylvania but this appears to be on a much larger scale.  In 1962, after a fire was set to burn out a dump in Centralia, the fire spread to a mine where it continues to burn underground to this day decimating the entire area making it unsafe to live for any of the residents.  For almost 20 years the impact of Centralia was downplayed until an incident on Valentine’s Day in 1981 involving Todd Domboski, a seventh grader, drew attention to the depth of the damage.  Todd was walking across a neighbors field when the ground gave way and literally began to swallow him alive.  A friend helped rescue him.  Centralia is now a ghost town where steaming fissures break through the ground and roads are shattered and sinking as a result of the fire.

Pdr_1647Like Centralia, this could have been avoided.  The EPA seriously failed in its estimation of the amount of water and in the building of a dirt dam to try and stop the contaminated water from spreading.  EPA apologists are coming out of the woodwork and trying to spin this into some minor incident while major media outlets are virtually ignoring it.  All of that just makes me more concerned as to the depth of the damage and danger from this disaster.  The mere fact that the water has turned yellow along the Animas River and is this yellow color all the way into New Mexico is evidence enough of the the EPA’s underestimation of the amount of damage they’ve created and the potential impact to the area’s ecosystem.

For a government, whose primary concern is supposed to be the preservation and protection of our rights to life, liberty and property; this is a huge fail!

All too often in the past the damage to human lives and livelihood is just viewed as collateral damage by government and corporate interests.  When lives are lost or displaced by government interference and failure or corporate greed there seems to be far too little accountability to the people impacted by that failure.  In this case both have played a role and,as Ronald Reagan said, Government wasn’t the solution to the problem, it made the problem far worse.

The following articles in fair use compliance were used to write this commentary




Indiana County PA points to the flaws of Property Taxation as a Revenue Source to Fund Government.

After reading the article recently published in The Indiana Gazette (https://www.indianagazette.com/news/indiana-news/est-official-defends-reassessment-process,22547968/) concerning a county-wide reassessment, I was looking at the feeble attempts to justify a system that even those who conduct the assessments admit are flawed, although they do so with technical spin that makes its sounds as though this is something that should not concern us.

Let me start by saying that I am of the conviction that property tax is the most seriously flawed system of taxation in existence.  I am also of the opinion that many in government are fully aware of this and far too many of them simply don’t care.  That issue is complicated by a corporate business world and a public sector that benefits from the property tax at the expensive of the rest of us and they don’t care either.  They would all rather perpetuate the property tax rather than shift to a system of taxation based on actually worth through a stable PIT and Sales Tax equally applied to all.  Property Taxation is universally unfair, its just less unfair to some than it is to others and far too many are perfectly fine with that.

Let’s flash back for a few minutes to court-ordered County-Wide assessment in Lebanon County.  We had to appeal our assessed value because it wasn’t even close.  In fact it was about $40,000 higher than an actual appraised value of our property which had been conducted shortly before the reassessment.  That appraisal was established by individuals who know and understand actual real estate value in the context of the local market values.  The assessed value was actually 50% higher than the appraised value of our property.

Our home is a modest city home in Lebanon, PA.  We turned up for the appeal to face a panel of people with no real experience in property values but had gone through a short training course conducted by the same people who conducted the assessment.  That should already set of red flags.  As we sat there they started showing us pictures that were taken from inside our fenced in yard.  We gave no consent to anyone to take these pictures, no consent for anyone to enter our property but had we not appealed we wouldn’t have know that out property rights had been violated.  It is illegal for a data collector in the assessment process to enter your property without your consent.  I had heard other complaints of these data collectors going on property without asking.  It’s not all that uncommon.

The data collectors are again made up largely of a hired group of people going through limited training with no real experience in property worth.  And who trains them, the same company that the County hires for the assessment….more red flags.

The pictures they showed us alarmed me.  We have a fenced in property with locked gates because we live in the city.  These pictures showed the rear of the home and being a city home it also showed that the rear of our property was basically concealed from public view meaning that these types of pictures would be valuable to anyone with criminal intent.   The pictures were also made available on a widely publicized website that was accessible to anyone who wanted to go online and look at the properties.

We were aware of the website prior to the appeal but we hadn’t really explored our own property, we had the assessment and we wanted to see if other properties in our neighborhood were being assessed at the extortion rates that our property had undergone.  Out property was assessed ridiculously high.  A storage shed that we had purchased two years previously for $250; one that was damaged after a tree limb from a neighbors Pine Tree broke loose during an ice storm, was said to have added $1,000 to our property value.  We were also told our basement was completely concreted and that the entire home had a finished basement.  This was absolutely untrue.  About half of the basement actually has a concrete floor.  The entire house doesn’t have a basement.  The rear of the house is just a crawl space for access to plumbing for the kitchen and laundry area on the first floor.

During this time period other residents, knowing my involvement in fighting for Property Tax Independence, contacted me and told me similar stories, many far worse than I was experiencing.  Some of them actually sent me copies of their new assessments and it was startling to see the number of people being ripped off through this supposedly stable form of taxation.

We won our appeal, but that just means the appeal resulted in a lower assessed value but it was still about $10,000 more than a previously appraised value that was conducted by people who actually have experience in market values of homes in the local area.  In other words, while we won the appeal we were still going to be paying taxes on about $10,000 worth of property we don’t actually own.

We are told that 10% of property owners actually go through the appeals process.  It’s time consuming and although its not legally necessary, we wouldn’t do this again without a lawyer to represent us.  This discourages many homeowners from actually going through the appeals process.  Since the hearings take place during the day, anyone working in the daytime would actually have to take off work to attend a hearing.

When the county doesn’t have the money to pay for an assessment and interest yielding bond is taken out.  That means property owners are not only on the hook for the cost of the assessment but also for the interest that accumulates in the repayment of that bond.

So we have a situation where private property laws were violated, incorrect assumptions were made by people with no experience in the market value of property worth for an assessment to be paid for by a bond that will earn interest and is paid for by the very tax it is supposed be making “more fair.”

In the article, Tim Barr defends this, which should come as no shock to anyone since this is what is company does for a living.  While he admits to the flaws of the system he defends it while trying to spin it by reminding us they are following state and INTERNATIONAL laws.

Now wait a minute.  I though property tax was supposed to preserve local controls.  Look, I know that’s not true but most people actually think that’s the case and that’s because they are often unwilling to do the homework necessary to understand that property tax is being used as a tool to implement a U.N Driven agenda called Sustainable Development which I prefer to refer by its original name….Agenda 21.  Agenda 21 has nothing to do with restoring controls to local citizens, rather it has everything to do with controlling the property and its use by government regulations meant to comply with an international agenda driven mostly by people who think that owning property is dangerous while contributing to social injustice.

In the article Tim Barr points to farmers and individuals who own larger tracts of land that have trees on them.  He defends Clean and Green, a Sustainable Development program.  Under Clean and Green the landowner gets a considerable reduction in their property taxes by signing a contract with the government that places governmental regulations over their property.  A lot of people do not want to enter Clean and Green but in every County-Wide assessment people are forced into it or face losing their property.

So not only do we have a system that is admittedly flawed, we have a system that forces people into yet another government dependency program if they want to keep their property and its a program to bring County’s under the guidelines of INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS.  But we shouldn’t be concerned.  This should raise an alarm with the citizens.  If your read Tim Barr’s spin on this, all of this is good thing.  We should be thankful that such programs didn’t exist.  That’s like being thankful for a government that quite literally stabs you in the back because there are doctors who may be able to save you.  Frankly, we’d rather not have been stabbed in the first place.

The article tells us that Indiana County Commissioner Michael Baker is standing up the assessment.  Good for him.  We need more County Commissioners who stand up to the egregious systems of property taxation.  Baker has complied a three page objection to the assessment pointing out its flaws.  The article states:

In his statement Wednesday, Baker called property tax “the worst possible way to fund government on any level, and that we must have immediate and meaningful property tax reform.”

The government uses a very deceptive trick to fool most homeowners.  Laws allow municipalities to take the assessed value and only use half of the value making it look as though your property is assessed much lower than it really is.  However they have a state run department that applies a common level ratio to that assessed value that is applied to the millage rate which means you could wind up paying taxes on property you don’t own depending on the common level ratio applied to your property.  All you see is the assessed value, the millage rate and then the final tax you owe.  The common level ratio is derived at using a complicated math formula that escapes the average high school graduates understanding.  That’s because its supposed to be confusing.  They really don’t want you to understand the system, they just want to prey upon your desire to do everything you can to keep your home so you pay the final bill.

In the end it’s an average that is equally applied to everyone which means if your property is below the average you pay more and if your property is above the average, you pay less.  That’s not to generate class warfare rhetoric, its just to point out how inherently flawed this system of taxation really is.  Since its applied county-wide it becomes a contributing factor for land-locked cities who can’t expand their tax base and their problems with blight and abandoned properties.  Of course we should all  be thankful that their are government sponsored programs to help bail cities out of these problems created by the property tax.  I guess that’s one more trip to the doctor for another intentionally inflicted wound and just being thankful for the doctors who can sew us up.

People go to great lengths to protect the property tax system ignoring that it is a root disease that is contributing to the higher costs of government all the way around.  Without the property tax their would be no need for assessments, no need for a state tax equalization board, no need for local property tax collection departments.  The cost of expensive appeals goes away.  The cost to banks and mortgage companies for maintaining escrow tax payments disappears as well making homeownership more affordable to more people.  Most importantly, individual property rights are restored and secured.

Eliminating the property tax ties the hands of all the unfunded mandates that come down through the local government, many of which are in place to support radical progressive agenda’s like Sustainable Development (Agenda 21) or in providing special interest protections at the tax payers expense through a localized property tax.  It’s not what it used to be: the property tax has become the tax extorting venue of choice for raising taxes by forcing them down to the local level to pay for failed government programs and protections of special interest concerns.

Property Tax is never determined by actual property worth regardless of how legal Tim Barr wants to spin this.  In economic downturns the assessed value is never adjusted and, in the name of stability, we pay taxes on property we don’t own.

In shifting to a PIT and Sales Tax to provide for local revenue needs taxation is based on actual worth…that may be less stable for the government but it’s more stable for the tax-payer and that should always take a higher precedence in any just government.  In difficult economic times when the tax-payer is expected to cut corners in their own budgets, so should everyone, including government.  Instead they spend because they can and that’s why we can’t control spending until we eliminate property tax.  Their will always be a reason to spend more of our money especially is systems where’s there is no longer any real accountability to produce results.

When the government determines a tax is just because its stable for them while creating instability for the tax payer we are in a system of serfdom run by tyrants insisting their portion of us regardless of the fact that we have little left to provide for ourselves.  When they’ll take your home from you under this system of taxation, local control is a joke…it’s an insult perpetuated by those who are still comfortable in their taxation…..for now.

As home ownership continues to decline many of those still comfortable today won’t be for long as they continue to pay for more government programs established to provide for damage as a result of protecting the status quo of the property tax.