Bennet, Perlmutter, Polis Introduce Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act

Bill Will Hold EPA Accountable, Ensure Communities are Compensated Appropriately

Washington, DC - Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, along with Representatives Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis, introduced a bill to help communities in southwest Colorado and New Mexico recover from the Gold King Mine blowout that released acid mine drainage into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

The Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act of 2015 will ensure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to work with local communities and tribes by requiring the agency to compensate those who were affected. It also requires the agency to work with the states and tribes to fund and implement long-term monitoring of water quality and to identify the risk of future spills by assessing other abandoned mines.

"The effects of the Gold King Mine spill resonated far beyond the banks of the Animas River in southwest Colorado," Bennet said. "In addition to the acid mine drainage that polluted our river, the disaster took its toll on businesses throughout the region, particularly our recreation and tourism industry. This bill ensures that those businesses, individuals, water districts, farmers, and local and tribal governments will be compensated by the EPA for costs they incurred due to the spill. It also expresses the Sense of Congress that the EPA should prioritize funding for a water treatment plant because acid mine drainage continues to flow into the river. The community deserves a commitment to a solution for this long standing pollution."

"The release at Gold King Mine was terrible for Colorado, New Mexico and Tribes. This legislation will make sure the communities impacted by these events get the help they need now and in the future," said Perlmutter. "Importantly, this bill will also assess the dangers of thousands of closed, abandoned and inactive mines and set long term priorities for the federal government to work with states and universities to develop new techniques and technologies to make remediation work safer and more efficient."

"Our bill provides much-needed relief to the families, businesses, and communities that were most effected by the Gold King Mine blowout last month," Polis said. "By providing a streamlined claims process and a system to monitor water-quality, this bill ensures that our communities in Southwest Colorado have the tools they need to recover as quickly as possible."

"I support this bill as it helps provide important clarification for those who may need to seek damages from the EPA for the Gold King mine spill," said La Plata County Commission Chair Gwen Lachelt. "I also appreciate that the bill calls for EPA to construct a water treatment plant in the Upper Animas River. That is a vital step for the long term restoration of the health of the Animas River."

"The Southern Ute Indian Tribe joins others in our community in gratitude for the prompt and specific response to the Gold King spill," said Clement Frost, Chairman of Southern Ute Tribe. "With this legislation and further work with the tribal, state, and federal agencies, we can address the known effects of the spill, work diligently to monitor, and then mitigate any longer term impacts, and learn a great deal about how to prevent or respond to such an event in the future."

"We would like to thank Senator Bennet for his sponsorship of the bill," said Andy Corra and Tony Miely at 4Corners Riversports in Durango. "Not only does this bill help clarify compensation options for losses to businesses such as ours, but it puts in place actions and safeguards to help deter future accidents from polluting our waterways and creating widespread economic hardships."

To ensure spill victims can receive compensation for their losses, the bill outlines allowable damages and sets up an Office of Gold King Mine Spill Claims within the EPA to expeditiously carry out the compensation process under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Property, business and financial losses will all be considered for compensation. Additionally, the legislation requires the EPA to monitor water in the Animas and San Juan rivers by working with affected states and tribes to develop, fund, and implement long-term water quality monitoring. The results of all water quality data must be provided to the public in a format that compares the results to all relevant water quality standards.

The bill also takes steps to prevent similar future disasters by requiring the EPA and other relevant agencies to identify the most dangerous abandoned mines across the West and establish a priority plan for cleanup. Prior to any cleanup or remediation in an abandoned mine, agencies will be required to alert nearby communities and develop a contingency plan in event of a blowout.

A detailed summary of the Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act is available HERE.

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