A local advocacy group, Albany County Clean Water Advocates, might pursue legal action against the Albany County Commission in the hope of shutting down Tumbleweed Express, a newly reopened gas station that lies on the east side of Laramie that is the only gas station to lie within the county’s Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone.
“If no action is taken, we intend to pursue the legal remedies available to us,” ACCWA board members said in an Oct. 3 letter.
One option the group could pursue is a writ of mandamus — in which a judge can compel a government to take some action they are required to by law.
After ACCWA President Sarah Gorin told Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent the advocacy group is now represented by an attorney, Trent said she’s asked to speak to that attorney but has been refused by ACCWA.
“As you can imagine, it is very concerning to me as a governmental attorney of 30 years that the public would file a mandamus action concerning non-enforcement of regulations,” she said. “That concerns me namely because there are many regulations on the books, including at the city of Laramie, that are not enforced. It’s complaint based because we do not have the staffing to do what would need to occur.”
However, Trent told the commissioners Tuesday that she believes the county is correctly enforcing its aquifer regulations. She said there is a “pending investigation and a pending prosecution” of Tumbleweed.
The water group, ACCWA, continues to argue that Tumbleweed’s on-and-off operations in recent years have ended its grandfathered right to operate in the recharge area of the Casper Aquifer.
That too was the original position of Trent, who pursued an injunction against Tumbleweed earlier this year.
But after fearing she’d lose in court, Trent withdrew the action but has continued to express concerns about the gas station.
At her urging, the commissioners voted last month to block the gas station from erecting a new 40-foot sign.
Trent is also working on a rewrite of the county’s aquifer regulations, which she’s said are too poorly written to be enforceable.
Advocates with ACCWA continue to disagree with that position, and have urged Albany County Commissioners to refile the injunction action.
In a Sept. 26 letter, ACCWA noted that the gas station didn’t have a motor fuel license from the Wyoming Department of Transportation for at five of the last 13 years.
Trent has said a grandfathered use can be legally lost under the county’s regulation only if Tumbleweed had stopped selling fuel for 24 consecutive months — not from a lack of compliance with state regulations.