The Denver Post reported Friday that Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt says he will re-evaluate the damage claims the agency had previously rejected from the Gold King Mine spill in August 2015. The New Mexico Office of the Attorney General, which was among those that had sought damages, has not heard from the agency, however. “We have confirmed that the EPA is not asking for resubmittals from those entities who have sued,” spokesman James Hallinan wrote in an email. “Thus, we did not receive the letter.” While conducting exploratory cleanup work of an abandoned mine in southwestern Colorado, federal contractors caused 3 million gallons of wastewater to spill from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied New Mexico’s petition to hold Colorado responsible for the 2015 Gold King Mine spill Monday, on the court’s last day in session this term. While conducting exploratory cleanup work of an abandoned mine in southwestern Colorado, federal contractors caused 3 million gallons of wastewater to spill from the Gold King Mine. The mine, like hundreds of others in the area, was owned by a private company before being abandoned. The Supreme Court decision to not hear the case was the latest blow to New Mexico’s attempts to hold someone responsible for the spill into the Animas River, which flows into the San Juan River. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose contractors caused the breach, said that under the Federal Tort Claims Act it was not legally able to pay the claims of economic damages caused by the 2015 spill.
The state of New Mexico announced a lawsuit against the state of Colorado over the Animas River spill that resulted in millions of gallons of contaminated water to flow down the river into the state’s Four Corners area. This is the second lawsuit by the state over the spill. Previously, the state announced a lawsuit against the federal government. At issue is the blowout of the Gold King Mine, where a team working for the federal Environmental Protection Agency caused the release of the toxic water from an abandoned mine near Silverton, CO. The mine is one of many abandoned mines dating back decades.
The state of New Mexico is seeking over $100 million in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for a mine blowout that led to millions of gallons of orangeish sludge flowing down the Animas River in the Four Corners area of the state. The blowout took place when a contractor with the EPA caused a blowout of an abandoned mine. The mistake by an EPA contractor caused 3 million gallons of toxic waste that had been gathering in the mine for years to flow down the Animas River, into New Mexico then to Utah. The Albuquerque Journal reported on the lawsuit, which has been pending for some time, seeks more than $136 million, most of which for lost economic activity in the state. The Navajo Nation also said after the spill they are readying a lawsuit against the federal government.
The state Environment Department announced on Thursday that it intends to sue the Environmental Protection Agency and others over the Gold King Mine spill that turned the Animas River into a sickly yellow-orange, pollution-filled mess for days. A contractor, Environmental Restoration, that was working under the EPA caused the blowout in the the mine in southwestern Colorado last August. In all, three million gallons of polluted water was released from the well, which traveled down the Animas River into New Mexico and Utah. The letter of intent to sue names the EPA, the federal Bureau of Land Management, the state of Colorado, Environmental Restoration LLC, San Juan Corporation, Todd Hennis, Sunnyside Gold, Inc. and the Kinross Gold Corporation. The other companies named are the companies that owned the mine, and Hennis is the CEO of San Juan Corporation.
Martin Heinrich is a Democrat representing New Mexico in the U.S. Senate. Last month, a large plume of bright orange toxic waste spilled into the Animas and San Juan Rivers and polluted the Four Corners region. When I toured affected areas following the Gold King Mine spill, I visited with impacted residents and joined the San Juan County Fire Department to deliver water to farmers in Aztec. I was also briefed on the coordinated approach from the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies working with state, local, and tribal officials, including Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye. I share the anger and frustration over this terrible accident and have demanded that the EPA act with urgency to protect the health and safety of our communities and repair the damage inflicted on the watershed.
Sen. Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján introduced legislation designed to clean up the area affected by the Gold King Mine spill. Udall, Luján and Martin Heinrich announced the introduction of the legislation, along with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., in a press release on Tuesday afternoon. Udall is introducing the legislation on the Senate side, while Luján is introducing the legislation on the House side. The Gold King Mine has been abandoned for decades, but a team hired by the Environmental Protection Agency caused a blowout of the mine. The blowout caused an orange plume of pollution to flow down the Animas River, from Colorado through New Mexico and Utah.
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the Gold King Mine spill that dumped waste from a mine into the Animas River. The spill ended up impacting three states as well as the Navajo Nation. U.S. Senators Tom Udall, D-N.M., and John McCain, R-Ariz., requested the hearing by the committee. Both sit on the committee and reached out to chairman John Barasso, R-Wyo., and ranking member Jon Tester, D-Mont., through a letter. The letter that Udall and McCain sent to the committee leadership is available at the bottom of this post, courtesy the Udall office.
As the Animas River spill continues to get national attention, New Mexico Political Report reached out to two reporters for an on-the-ground look at the disaster. It started with a breach of the Gold King Mine by a team working for the Environmental Protection Agency, sending a plume of orange pollution down the river and eventually into three states and through the Navajo Nation. Jonathan Thompson is a senior editor with High Country News and he previously owned and edited the Silverton Standard & The Miner and wrote about the Animas River spill. Tristan Ahtone is a freelance journalist who reported on the spill’s effects on the Navajo Nation for Al Jazeera America. The two spoke to New Mexico Political Report over the phone on Thursday afternoon. “There’s a lot of heartbreak and just kind of sadness around it by sure,” Thompson, who lives in Durango, Colo., said.
FARMINGTON, N.M. – Thousands of abandoned mines in New Mexico, Colorado and other Western states pose as much of a toxic threat, or greater, as the Gold King Mine in Colorado, which leaked three million gallons of toxic sludge and mine waste into the Animas River following an accidental discharge last week. Part of the larger Colorado River system, the Animas is a tributary of the San Juan River, which flows into Lake Powell and mixes with Colorado River water. Farmington is among several downstream communities devastated by the spill. Mike Eisenfeld with the San Juan Citizens Alliance says the Gold King Mine spill is just a sample of the threat posed by century-old abandoned mines. “There’s probably about 20,000 historic, abandoned mines in the Four Corners area,” he says.