WASHINGTON – On the 3rd anniversary of the Gold King Mine spill, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján (all D-N.M.) denounced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s ongoing failure to compensate victims in the Navajo Nation and New Mexico – despite repeated promises to do so from former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
The New Mexico lawmakers have successfully secured millions in funding for a long-term water monitoring plan for areas impacted by the Gold King Mine spill, and have introduced legislation to reform the nation’s antiquated hard rock mining laws and prevent another toxic spill like the Gold King Mine disaster. Udall, Heinrich, and Luján today are calling on the EPA to correct its failure to compensate claimants hurt by the spill.
“It has now been three years since the EPA spilled three million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers – upending the lives and livelihoods of people in the Navajo Nation, farmers, ranchers, and New Mexico communities. And three years later, the victims of this disaster are still left picking up the pieces, and have still not been made whole or received the compensation they deserve from the federal government. The EPA’s continued failure to step up to the plate and compensate victims remains a shameful abdication of responsibility.
“While our work in Congress has yielded key progress to hold EPA accountable and improve water safety, the EPA is dragging its feet and refusing to take the necessary action to right this wrong. Former Administrator Pruitt made many public promises to reconsider past denials for claimants – including in New Mexico and the Navajo Nation— and to work toward compensating victims. Pruitt even publicly stated that decisions on these claims would be made by the end of March 2018. But nearly six months after those promises – and three years after the spill -- these victims in New Mexico and the Navajo Nation have yet to see a dime of compensation. The EPA’s opaque and muddled process for reconsidering these claims is just the latest chapter in the agency’s disastrous response to a crisis of its own making.
“Acting Administrator Wheeler should take immediate and transparent action to rectify the EPA’s failures on Gold King Mine. But as long as the EPA fails to act, we will continue to fight in Congress to correct the EPA’s failure and to ensure a disaster like this never happens again.”