12.19.16

Gardner, Tipton Demand EPA Reimburse Communities Impacted by Gold King Mine Spill

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-3), sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy today regarding the agency’s decision not to fully reimburse affected states, local, and tribal governments that have been impacted by the EPA-born Gold King Mine disaster.

In the letter, Gardner and Tipton reminded Administrator McCarthy of a section of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act) they authored that requires the EPA to fully reimburse all state, local, and tribal government for response costs, regardless of the arbitrary deadline the EPA imposed on such payments.

The letter reads in full:

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

 

We write today to request the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) immediately issue full reimbursement for the costs incurred by several entities in Southwest Colorado to respond to the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill, in accordance with Section 5004 of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act), which we sponsored, and the President   signed into law. Earlier this month, EPA sent final decision letters indicating that the agency has no intention of making further response cost reimbursements. This is unacceptable, and inconsistent with your commitment to take full responsibility to affected states, local and tribal governments, and communities, and contrary to the newly enacted WIIN Act.

 

The justification cited by EPA in refusing to reimburse many response costs has no basis in law. The provision included in the WIIN Act makes that clear. The law specifically directs EPA to expedite reimbursement of all response costs incurred by state, local and tribal governments prior to September 9, 2016, if consistent with the National Contingency Plan under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. Therefore, Congress compels the agency to reimburse such response costs even if incurred after October of 2015. 

 

Furthermore, EPA should reassess all disallowed response costs while ensuring all reassessments and appeals are based on the recently-enacted law. Local and tribal entities should not have to be burdened with the appeals process when the law requires EPA to assist them in being made whole. 

 

Additionally, we reiterate our calls for the U.S. Department of Justice and EPA to expeditiously process the more than 60 claims that are still pending under the Federal Torts Claim Act regarding the spill. The August 1, 2016, letter from EPA to state, tribal, local, and Congressional leaders stated that EPA and the Department of Justice “hope to be responding to these claims in the coming weeks.” It is completely inadequate that our federal government has not moved forward on a single claim related to personal injury or economic loss resulting from the spill it caused over 16 months ago. 

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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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