07.14.16

Gardner, Hatch Request Hearing on Gold King Mine Accountability Legislation

Washington, DC – Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) today sent a letter to Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) requesting a hearing on the Gold King Accountability and Compensation for Taxpayers (ACT), legislation they introduced in May following reports that Colorado counties were not being fully reimbursed for the costs associated with the Gold King Mine spill, which occurred on August 5, 2015 after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released millions of gallons of wastewater into the Animas River.

 

Gardner has repeatedly called on the federal government to provide the necessary resources to Colorado communities affected by this EPA-born disaster. Nearing the 1-year anniversary of the Gold King Mine spill it is important to note the EPA has not made a single payment to those harmed by the spill under the Federal Tort Claims Act, or fully reimbursed counties, local governments, and tribes for emergency response costs incurred as a result of the Gold King Mine spill. It is unacceptable that the EPA has resumed its work on the Gold King site, but has yet to live up to its promise to take full responsibility for the spill. 

 

In the letter, the Senators stated, “The Gold King ACT is a fiscally responsible bill that would direct the EPA to fully and expeditiously compensate communities impacted by this preventable, man-made environmental disaster. Currently, there are more than 60 federal tort claims relating to the Gold King Mine spill upon which the EPA has yet to act. This legislation also holds the EPA accountable by requiring the agency to pay for these claims out of its own budget, and it expedites the payout of emergency response costs assumed by tribes, counties, and local governments.”

 

Gardner continues to work on legislation that allows 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. Gardner urged his colleagues to support the legislation in a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing in March. 

Additionally, many questions remain regarding the events leading up to and immediately following the spill. Gardner anxiously awaits the EPA’s Office of Inspector General’s report on the spill and expects several pressing questions he sent in a letter to be included in the report.  

The letter reads in full:

 

Chairman and Ranking Member:

 

We write to request the swift consideration of the Gold King Accountability and Compensation for Taxpayers Act (Gold King ACT, S. 2950).

 

Last August, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released millions of gallons of wastewater into the Animas River in Silverton, Colorado. This acid mine discharge was estimated to have dumped nearly one million pounds of heavy metals into the Animas River, a tributary of the San Juan River and part of the Colorado River system. The spill spanned hundreds of miles and impacted multiple states and tribes.

 

The Gold King ACT is a fiscally responsible bill that would direct the EPA to fully and expeditiously compensate communities impacted by this preventable, man-made environmental disaster. Currently, there are more than 60 federal tort claims relating to the Gold King Mine spill upon which the EPA has yet to act. This legislation also holds the EPA accountable by requiring the agency to pay for these claims out of its own budget, and it expedites the payout of emergency response costs assumed by tribes, counties, and local governments.

 

Recently, the EPA announced that it is mobilizing contractors to complete the work at Gold King Mine that ultimately led to last year’s release. We think it is unacceptable for the EPA to resume work without moving forward on a single federal tort claim filed regarding the Gold King Mine release and without fully compensating emergency response costs and economic damages resulting from the spill.  

 

States, communities, tribes, businesses, and other stakeholders were significantly impacted by an environmental disaster for which the EPA is wholly accountable. This legislation represents a commonsense solution that will provide just compensation to those most affected by this spill. Your prompt consideration is greatly appreciated.

 

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