Bennet Applauds EPA Move to Allow Good Samaritans to Clean Up Abandoned Mines

December 12, 2012

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today applauded a new policy issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce legal vulnerabilities for Good Samaritans who volunteer to clean up abandoned mine sites.

EPA headquarters in Washington issued a memorandum to its regional offices that encourages clean-up activities at hard rock abandoned mine sites. The memorandum is intended to reduce the perceived Clean Water Act legal vulnerability faced by "Good Samaritans" who want to clean up their communities. Before today’s guidance from EPA, Good Samaritans were oftentimes precluded from undertaking cleanup efforts because of perceived financial liability problems stemming from the Clean Water Act.

“Today’s EPA announcement is a welcome step to allow Good Samaritan groups to begin cleaning up abandoned mines that are threatening Colorado’s watersheds,” Bennet said. “I applaud Senator Mark Udall’s leadership on this issue to forge this path forward for Good Samaritans.”

Many community organizations have been looking at opportunities to clean up these sites and EPA's memorandum clarifies that these “Good Samaritans,” or non-liable parties, who volunteer to clean up these abandoned sites are generally not responsible for obtaining a permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA) both during and following a successful cleanup.

Bennet is a cosponsor of a bill to allow states like Colorado to use funds that were previously only available for the reclamation of coal mines to be used for hard rock mines as well. Bennet also joined Udall and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in February to ask the EPA for a policy like the one released today that that gives Good Samaritans some legal certainty for abandoned mine cleanups.

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