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Udall, Heinrich, Luján Include Provision to Support Gold King Mine Monitoring Efforts in End-of-Year Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, the lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján announced that they included a provision in the end-of-year appropriations bill that encourages the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct long-term monitoring efforts following the Gold King Mine blowout. The accident spilled toxic wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers in New Mexico and Colorado. The provision directs the EPA to coordinate with states and Tribes impacted by the spill to develop a robust plan for independent monitoring, and directs the agency to provide support for states' and Tribes' monitoring efforts. 

"I'm pleased that language I pushed for in this appropriations bill will help hold the EPA accountable and ensure it upholds its commitment to prioritizing transparent water quality monitoring for farmers, ranchers and families in Northwestern New Mexico and on the Navajo Nation," Udall said. "If a situation like a flash flood or thunderstorm were to cause contamination in the water once again, we need the EPA making determinations and giving prompt warnings to impacted communities based on the best scientific advice. The language we've included in this bill helps directs the agency's role coordinating between states and Tribes and supporting communities' recovery from Gold King Mine blowout." 

“Families in northwestern New Mexico and on the Navajo Nation deserve to be fairly and fully compensated for the damages incurred after the Gold King Mine spill,” said Heinrich. “Farmers, ranchers, and livestock owners were hit especially hard after struggling to protect their crops from contaminated wastewater. I will continue to hold the EPA accountable for its actions and work to overhaul our nation’s hardrock mining and abandoned mine policies to prevent future disasters. The EPA must work with New Mexico, Colorado, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Navajo Nation, and all affected communities to monitor the long-term consequences of this spill, to protect the health and safety of water resources, and to ensure that communities are made whole again.”

"The Gold King Mine spill has impacted communities in New Mexico and the Navajo Nation, while taking a toll on businesses, farmers, and ranchers," Luján said. "There are serious concerns about the effect that this spill will have on our communities in the months and years to come, and it is critical that there is a coordinated effort to conduct long-term monitoring of the Animas River.  I am pleased that as a result of our efforts working with the appropriators, we were able to include a provision in the omnibus bill that directs EPA to work with the states and tribes to implement an independent monitoring plan."

The provision reads: "EPA is directed to coordinate with impacted States and tribes on development of a robust, long-term plan for independent monitoring. With existing funds, the Agency is directed to continue to seek ways to provide States and tribes with support for their contribution to monitoring efforts." 

Udall, Heinrich and Luján, along with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, introduced legislation earlier this year to ensure the EPA works with affected communities to compensate those who were impacted. Their Gold King Mine Recovery Act included provisions to require the agency to work with states and Tribes to fund and implement long-term monitoring of water quality from the mine and to identify the risks of futures spills by assessing other abandoned mines for cleanup. Udall and Heinrich have also introduced a bill to reform the nation's antiquated hardrock mining laws to help ensure taxpayers are not on the hook for cleaning up abandoned mines, many of which are continuously leaking toxic chemicals into rivers and streams and have the potential for catastrophic disasters like the Gold King Mine blowout. Luján is a cosponsor of similar legislation, H.R. 963, which has been introduced in the House of Representatives.