“Beyond the immediate cleanup of this spill, we must overhaul our abandoned mine cleanup policies to make future disasters less likely.”
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich spoke at a U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) oversight hearing yesterday on the Gold King Mine spill that occurred last month. The committee examined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) response to the accident, which caused a large plume of bright orange toxic waste to spill into the Animas and San Juan Rivers and pollute the Four Corners region, and the subsequent impact it had on the environment and economies of local states, communities, and Indian tribes.
In the hearing, Senator Heinrich said, “In the Southwest, water is our most precious resource, so you can imagine the kind of impact this disaster has had on our communities in Colorado, New Mexico, the Navajo Nation, and Arizona. I have demanded that the EPA act with urgency to protect our health and safety and repair the damage inflicted on this watershed. This must be our first and top priority.”
Senator Heinrich also highlighted the need for reforms to federal mining laws. He displayed maps of New Mexico and Colorado–the two states most affected by the spill–that show the abandoned hardrock mines and the waters polluted by hardrock metals.
“Beyond the immediate cleanup of this spill, it’s high time that we overhaul our abandoned mine cleanup policies to make future disasters like this less likely,” said Senator Heinrich. “While developers of resources like oil, natural gas, and coal all pay royalties to return fair value to taxpayers for our public resources, hardrock mining companies can still mine valuable minerals for free.”
Last month, Senator Heinrich traveled to northwestern New Mexico to deliver water to local farmers impacted by the Gold King Mine spill and was briefed by EPA officials on its response to the disaster. During his travel to the area, Senator Heinrich also met with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye in Window Rock, Ariz., to discuss the response efforts in Indian Country.