WASHINGTON, D.C. – New legislation aimed at preventing toxic waste spills during cleanup efforts at abandoned mines has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Safety Act, introduced by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz, was drafted in response to recommendations from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s technical review after the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill. The spill released 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers.
“This bill uses the lessons we learned in Colorado to make sure this accident isn’t repeated,” Grijalva said in a statement after the bill was introduced Wednesday.
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, believes that Good Samaritan legislation, which would allow third-party groups to undertake mine cleanup efforts with some legal protections, should remain the priority over seeking to impose further federal regulations.
Although similar legislative efforts have failed in the past, Tipton is working with Colorado’s U.S. senators – Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican – on Good Samaritan legislation in response to last year’s spill.
“The most promising approach to addressing contamination in abandoned mine sites remains through Good Samaritan legislation that empowers those with the necessary technical expertise and qualification – something missing at the EPA – to move forward with remediation activities,” said Tipton spokesman Josh Green.
Grijalva’s newly introduced bill says the legislation would “direct the secretary of the Interior to promulgate regulations for the safe and environmentally responsible reopening of abandoned mines, and for other purposes.”
It also would require new federal regulations to improve worker safety, professional engineering reviews to gauge cleanup efforts at abandoned mines and stronger federal oversight of high-risk sites.
“We know how to make these kinds of spills less likely in the future, so let’s take some action, protect the people impacted by these abandoned mines and support the folks we ask to clean them up,” Grijalva said.
The legislation was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, where Grijalva serves as the ranking member.
The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Safety Act compliments similar legislation that was introduced in November in response to the Gold King Mine spill. That legislation – the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015 – seeks to reform the nation’s hard-rock mining laws and was introduced by Bennet along with fellow New Mexico Democrats Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, and Grijalva in the House.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Edward Graham is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.