Mark Udall thanked the Environmental Protection Agency for standing with him and Good Samaritans today by issuing a new policy to give groups additional protections as they help clean up the more than 7,000 abandoned hard rock mine sites located in Colorado and thousands more throughout the West. Today's announcement follows more than decade's work on Udall's part to unleash the power of local groups and volunteers who want to help clean up old mine site.
"This new policy, which follows a multiyear effort I led, is welcome news for my constituents and Good Samaritans everywhere. Abandoned mines in Colorado and across the West threaten our waterways and the environment," Udall said. "I am glad the EPA has partnered with me to develop this policy, which will free up Good Samaritans -- like Trout Unlimited, the Animas River Stakeholders Group and the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee -- to help protect our streams, waterways and drinking supplies. We still have work to do to address these abandoned mines, but this is a welcome step in the right direction that will unleash the power of local groups and volunteers."
Specifically, the policy clarifies that:
Good Samaritan agreements with EPA can include extended time periods for monitoring or other activities, thereby extending the legal liability protections contained in the agreement; and, Good Samaritans are generally not responsible for obtaining a Clean Water Act permit during or after a successful cleanup conducted according to a Good Samaritan agreement with EPA.
"I commend the EPA and Administrator Lisa Jackson for joining with me to leverage the resources of groups committed to cleaning up abandoned mine pollution. This policy clearly demonstrates their desire to protect Western watersheds. I look forward to working with Good Samaritans to evaluate the effectiveness of these clarifications and determine if other improvements are needed," Udall said. "In the meantime, I plan to continue to work to secure additional federal funds for mine reclamation and the cleanup of abandoned mines."
"Abandoned mines represent the single-greatest, least-understood threat to clean water and fish in the West," said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. "The otherwise outstanding laws of our land, the Clean Water Act and Superfund, actually prevent third parties -- Good Samaritans -- from entering into cleanup projects because of the liability risks they place on would be helpers, such as Trout Unlimited. Today we commend EPA for taking this important step to provide appropriate protection for Good Samaritans, and we applaud Sen. Udall's efforts to get this problem fixed."
Udall, who serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has been one of the leading voices in Congress on cleaning up and remediating abandon mine sites since he joined Congress in 1999. The EPA's memo stems from Udall's work over the past two years to find a way to give Good Samaritans additional protections as they continue their important work.
Udall also recently visited a mine site in San Juan County to hear about how additional legal certainty for Good Samaritans would help local groups remediate mines.
Last month Udall implored the U.S. House of Representatives to take up the legislation he co-sponsored that will allow Colorado and other states more flexibility in utilizing federal funds to clean up abandoned hard rock mining sites. The legislation, S.897, would allow states like Colorado to use funds that were previously only available for the reclamation of coal mines to be used for hard rock mines as well.