Bennet, Gardner, Tipton Express Disappointment Over EPA's Refusal to Pay Gold King Mine Claims

Lawmakers Vow to Introduce Legislative Fix

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R), along with Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-3), today released the below statements regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision to not receive and process claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for any injury or economic loss arising out of the Gold King Mine spill in August 2015.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke with the lawmakers earlier today to inform them the EPA will not reimburse the 73 individuals and tribes who filed claims under the FTCA.

"The record is clear that the Environmental Protection Agency was responsible for the spill. It is extremely disappointing that the EPA has categorically rejected every single claim filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The agency has broken its promise to make our communities whole in the days after the spill," Bennet said. "We introduced legislation authorizing the EPA to reimburse businesses, tribes, governments, and individuals for damages from the Gold King Spill. We will continue to work with affected states to ensure that all victims are compensated for their losses. We will also continue to push for local governments to receive full reimbursement from the EPA for costs incurred due to the spill."

"I spoke with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy earlier today and she informed me the EPA is not processing these claims," said Gardner. "This decision is disappointing and I plan to work with Senator Bennet and Congressman Tipton on legislation to ensure my constituents are made whole from this EPA-born spill. Last Congress, I introduced a bill that would expedite the FTCA claims and prohibit the government from using the discretionary function exception under the FTCA in relation to receiving and processing these claims. I will continue this effort with Senator Bennet and Congressman Tipton and work for a legislative fix to the EPA's decision. When the law allows the government to hide from those whom it has harmed, the law must change."

Gardner added: "Furthermore, EPA must expeditiously reimburse all state, local, and tribal governments for response costs, which a provision of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act) I authored mandates. I sent a letter demanding these payments be made in December and will continue to advocate for my constituents. Coloradans deserve better from their government and I plan on working to hold the agency accountable."

"It is hard to believe that the EPA has determined existing statute prohibits the agency from taking full responsibility and remedial actions following the Gold King Mine spill, when the agency has so clearly shown little regard for statute in implementing its regulatory agenda over the past eight years," said Tipton. "After the EPA's irresponsible actions led to the release of three million gallons of contaminated water into Cement Creek and the Animas River, the agency said it would make sure that wronged parties were made whole. The news today is a complete departure from that commitment, and our states, local governments, and tribes can rest assured that we will continue to work to make the EPA accountable for the mess they have made."