October 22, 2015

Udall, Heinrich, Luján Respond to Evaluation of Gold King Mine Spill Highlighting EPA Responsibility

Will push forward on mining law reform and legislation to ensure EPA compensates farmers and others affected

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján responded to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Technical Evaluation of the Gold King Mine Incident. The report found that responsibility for the mine blowout, which spilled 3 million gallons of wastewater into rivers in New Mexico and Colorado, rests with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report points out that an EPA mine remediation crew attempting to reopen the mine failed to take into consideration the engineering complexity and miscalculated the water level inside the mine, which led directly to the failure.

The lawmakers released the following joint statement:

"This report sheds more light on the serious mistakes that sent millions of gallons of polluted water through the San Juan and Animas rivers in New Mexico. Farmers on the Navajo Nation and others throughout San Juan County are still struggling with the devastating combination of the loss of water for their crops and concerns about lingering pollution in the soil and groundwater. This report also underscores why the agency must take responsibility to make these communities whole. That includes compensation for farmers and others who were affected, and the cost of water monitoring efforts by the state of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation.

"We have introduced bills in the Senate and House that would ensure the EPA compensates those who have had losses and damages, and continues to work with the community to test water quality. But we also must take action to ensure an accident like this never happens again. The Gold King Mine blowout should be a wake-up call to the nation about threats posed by the thousands of abandoned mines throughout the West. Today's report shows how easily a few mistakes could lead to another terrible accident. Next week, Senator Heinrich and Senator Udall will be introducing Senate legislation - which complements legislation supported by Representative Luján in the House - that will reform our antiquated hardrock mining laws and ensure mining companies pay their fair share so that taxpayers aren't on the hook for future disasters."