DENVER — The Colorado Attorney General’s Office called a judge’s decision that the Adams County Board of Commissioners had misapplied hazardous waste funds a victory for hazardous waste management in Colorado.
“The money Adams County dipped into was intended to help state and local authorities accommodate the Clean Harbors hazardous waste facility and ensure safe operations,” Attorney General John Suthers said. “We are glad to see the court defend the proper use of this fund.”
According to the decision, issued late Thursday, the Adams County Board of County Commissioners misapplied more than $750,000 worth of hazardous waste disposal fees collected from the Clean Harbors facility, located near Deer Trail, to pay for private attorney fees and court costs associated with suing the state in several related cases.
“The express purpose of [the fund] is to offset the estimated costs of increased services caused or necessitated by the operation of a hazardous waste disposal site,” District Court Judge John T. Bryan wrote in the order. “The attorney fees and costs incurred in the Clean Harbors litigation were not caused or necessitated by operation of the hazardous waste disposal site but, rather, were incurred as a result of the county’s decision to attempt to prevent operation of that site.”
The judge concluded that using the fund to pay legal fees to private attorneys was “plainly not a direct cost of operating the site.”
In related litigation, the state is awaiting a decision from the Colorado Supreme Court on the dismissal of Adams County’s lawsuits against the state concerning the 2005 issuance of a hazardous waste permit and radioactive materials license allowing the Clean Harbors facility to accept low-level radioactive waste. The state also is engaged in a separate appeal brought by Adams County following a judge’s decision regarding the County’s authority to restrict operations at the Clean Harbors facility.