The last time we checked the regulatory runoff from the Animas River spill, a 132-page report by the Interior Department and Bureau of Reclamation laid the blame for the contamination at the doorstep of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Now, the legal runoff is about to hit.
New Mexico is seeking more than $136 million from the Environmental Protection Agency and the owners of Colorado’s Gold King Mine, noting that dangers from contaminants spewed into the Animas River by the Aug. 5 mine spill are still lurking in New Mexico waters.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, Attorney General Hector Balderas and the New Mexico Environment Department cite economic setbacks and environmental damage suffered by the state after more than 3 million gallons of toxic waste was dumped into the river.
It demands reimbursement of $889,327 for short-term emergency-response costs paid by the state, more than $6 million to pay for long-term monitoring of the Animas and San Juan rivers and $130 million for lost income, taxes, fees and revenues suffered by the state because of the spill.
New Mexico isn’t the only entity planning to slam America’s most aggressive agency with a lawsuit, either.
The Navajo Nation also said after the spill they are readying a lawsuit against the federal government.
The state and Navajo Nation governments both heavily criticized the EPA not only for the spill itself but also for the response. The governments criticized the EPA for not providing full explanations and for, when explanations were provided, not providing adequate information.
And Utah also has a lawsuit in the works.
Two U.S. Senators have introduced legislation [Gold King Accountability and Compensation for Taxpayers (ACT)] requiring the EPA to “fully and expeditiously” compensate all communities impacted by the Gold King Mine spill. The bill, offered by Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), was created after reports surfaced that La Plata County (where the spill originated) will not receive full reimbursement for the costs for dealing with the disaster.
Currently, there are more than 60 federal tort claims relating to the Gold King Mine spill totaling nearly $5 million that the EPA has not yet paid. The Gold King ACT holds the EPA fully accountable by requiring the EPA to pay for these claims out of its own budget. Additionally, the legislation expedites the payout of emergency response costs assumed by tribes, counties, and local governments.
Additionally, two other U.S. Senators are asking the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation into the Gold King Mine spill.
Sens. John McCain of Arizona and John Barasso of Wyoming wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch today making the request.
“We believe that sufficient information exists to warrant an investigation by the Justice Department of whether EPA employees or contractors may have committed crimes in connection with the spill, including but not limited to criminal violations of federal environmental laws, criminal negligence and obstruction,” the senators wrote.
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