Washington, DC - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today participated in a Small Business Committee hearing to discuss the effects of the Gold King Mine spill on businesses in southwest Colorado. The hearing, entitled, "Examining the Significant Costs and Related Burdens for Small Businesses Resulting from the Gold King Mine Waste Water Spill near Silverton, Colorado," was chaired by Senator Cory Gardner.
Below are Senator Bennet's prepared remarks:
"Thank you for inviting me to join you this morning. It's my pleasure to welcome Commissioner Blake, Ms. Gallegos, and Mr. Corra.
"The blowout at the Gold King Mine affected communities and businesses throughout southwest Colorado. There's no denying that the EPA caused the spill, and that's entirely unacceptable. We've held hearings on the EPA's actions and it's appropriate that we now consider the economic effects of this spill.
"The Animas River is the lifeblood and economic engine of southwest Colorado. As we'll hear today, rafting companies lost business, sport fish trips were cancelled, tourism suffered, and farmers couldn't water their crops. The damages from the spill are still being calculated and we may not know the full costs for years to come. Businesses and individuals are starting to file claims to recover their losses. They deserve to be fully reimbursed for the damages. And the EPA has committed to doing so.
"The ‘Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act' that I've introduced with Senator Udall will ensure that the EPA follows through on this promise. The bill requires the EPA to reimburse businesses, tribes, governments, and individuals for property damage, lost revenue, and emergency expenses. It also calls on the EPA to construct a permanent water treatment plant north of Silverton to tackle this problem at its source.
"The four mines in the Upper Animas River basin release more than 300 million gallons of acid mine drainage every year. We need solutions to address this pollution across the West.
"Senator Gardner and I are working on Good Samaritan legislation to encourage clean-up of abandoned mines. And we need to reform the 1872 Mining Law to make sure that mining companies pay royalties to tax payers.
"Like many other business owners and elected officials, our witnesses today, Commissioner Blake, DeAnne Gallegos, and Andy Corra, understand the need to address legacy mining so that we don't get hit with another blowout.
"Senator Gardner and I appreciated meeting with Mr. Corra and Commissioner Blake during our visit to Durango four days after the spill. Mr. Corra is the co-owner of 4 Corners Riversports in Durango. 4Corners Riversports is an outdoor retail store, paddle school, and commercial rafting business. He's built his business and raised his family in southwest Colorado.
"As with many small business owners in Durango, Andy depends on the Animas River. So when the water turned orange in August in the middle of peak rafting season, it hit his business hard and with no warning.
"I look forward to learning more from all of the witnesses this morning. Thank you again for inviting me to speak briefly and for holding this hearing."
# # #