January 21, 2016--Colorado delegation poised to introduce Good Samaritan mine cleanup bill (Durango Herald)

Legislation to allow organizations the opportunity to clean up abandoned mines with liability protection is on the cusp of being introduced in the U.S. Congress. Colorado U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican, are preparing to introduce Good Samaritan legislation along with Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, that would allow groups to apply for permits to assist with environmental cleanup efforts at abandoned mines. The draft legislation, called the Good Samaritan Cleanup of Orphan Mines Act, will be discussed Tuesday at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “While there are willing and able Good Samaritans who wish to address safety and environmental concerns and improve water quality at orphan mines, the EPA has done little to incentivize them and the fear of liability for meeting all federal standards during cleanup is too great,” Gardner said of the draft legislation. Although Good Samaritan legislation has previously been proposed in Congress without success, the latest effort is a renewed attempt by Colorado’s Capitol Hill delegation to address leaking mines in response to the Gold King Mine spill last August. The spill, caused by contractors working for the Environmental Protection Agency, released more than 3 million gallons of toxic and contaminated wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers.  “The Gold King Mine spill was a sharp reminder of the imperative to clean up the thousands of abandoned mines in Colorado and throughout the West,” Bennet said. “Part of that solution is to craft a Good Samaritan policy with the help of the state, local communities and their partners.” Groups working to remediate abandoned mines would currently be held liable for toxic water contamination under the Clean Water Act, even if they were only attempting to limit the pollution. The legislation would remove hurdles faced by willing groups by creating a permit and application system that includes detailed plans for remediation. Organizations that stray from the terms of the permit would be liable for contamination. The legislation is specifically tailored to address abandoned mine sites “used for the production of a mineral other than coal.” The Bureau of Land Management reports that there are more than 2,700 abandoned mines in Colorado. The EPA estimates that at least 230 of these mines are leaking toxic chemicals into waterways. To view the full article visit the Durango Herald.