05.18.16

Gardner, Hatch Introduce Bill Holding EPA Accountable for Gold King Mine Spill

Washington, DC – Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) today introduced legislation titled the Gold King Accountability and Compensation for Taxpayers (ACT). The Gold King ACT is a fiscally responsible bill that requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fully and expeditiously compensate all communities impacted by the Gold King Mine spill. The legislation follows reports that La Plata County will not receive full reimbursement for the costs associated with the Gold King Mine spill, which occurred on August 5, 2015 after the EPA released millions of gallons of wastewater into the Animas River.

“The EPA-born Gold King Mine disaster financially burdened families, businesses, tribal communities, and local governments not only in Colorado, but also neighboring states,” said Gardner. “The EPA is wholly accountable and therefore should be held to the same standard as private companies, and the Gold King ACT makes sure of it. I’ll continue to fight to ensure all of those affected by the Animas River spill are made whole, and encourage my colleagues to join Senator Hatch and me in rejecting Washington’s double standard and holding the EPA fully liable.”

“Last year the EPA inadvertently spilled millions of gallons of waste into the Animas River in Colorado, exposing the waterways and surrounding environment to toxic heavy metals,” said Hatch. “This spill had a significant adverse impact on many downstream communities and businesses throughout multiple Western states—including Utah. The EPA must be held accountable for this travesty, and those that were impacted by this man-made disaster should be justly compensated. I am proud to join Senator Gardner in introducing legislation that will accomplish both these goals.”

Currently, there are more than 60 federal tort claims relating to the Gold King Mine spill totaling nearly $5 million that the EPA has not yet paid. The Gold King ACT holds the EPA fully accountable by requiring the EPA to pay for these claims out of its own budget. Additionally, the legislation expedites the payout of emergency response costs assumed by tribes, counties, and local governments. While some of the response claims have been paid, the EPA has stated that it is not preparing to process emergency response actions after October 31, 2015. This bill directs the EPA to process and pay claims filed after this date as long as a claimant’s action is consistent with standard emergency response costs listed in federal law. Lastly, the legislation requires the EPA to work in coordination with states and Indian tribes to develop and implement a program for long-term water quality monitoring of the Animas River, which includes collecting water quality samples and sediment data and releasing it to the public.

Background:

  • Recently, Gardner toured EPA’s water treatment facility in Gladstone, CO. The tour followed a letter Gardner sent to the EPA urging additional funding for water quality monitoring, and later welcomed the news that EPA committed to providing $600,000 in additional funding to support spring runoff as well as real-time monitoring efforts.  
  • Gardner released a discussion draft of legislation designed to allow Good Samaritans, such as the mining industry, state agencies, local governments, nonprofits, and other groups, the opportunity to clean up the environment and improve water quality in and around orphan mines. A legislative hearing on the draft took place in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in March. Gardner continues to work toward introduction of the legislation with an intention to mark up the legislation this summer.   
  • In October, Gardner chaired a Senate Small Business Committee hearing that was called to assess the impact of the Gold King Mine spill on local communities and businesses.
  • In September, Gardner testified at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to discuss the EPA’s unacceptable response and recovery efforts following the Gold King Mine spill.

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.

 

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