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house Bill H.R. 4735

Should EPA Funds Go to Reimbursing People Harmed by the Gold King Mine Spill?

Argument in favor

The Gold King Mine spill caused damage to homes and businesses, and property owners are still waiting for the government to adequately compensate them for the damages caused by the EPA accidentally dumping 3 million gallons of acid mine drainage into rivers.

ManTrees's Opinion
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10/13/2018
Yes. It’s environmental justice. EPA then can enforce/ fine the mining company to recoup the costs. But those people need help now.
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Grace's Opinion
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10/13/2018
The EPA must be held accountable for its own actions.
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David 's Opinion
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10/13/2018
If the EPA was involved in the dump they need to be part of the cleanup. If they need more money let them take it from the monies being used to incarcerate refugee children.
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Argument opposed

The EPA has already spent a lot of money on Gold King Mine spill cleanup and recovery efforts, and taking more money to pay claims out of EPA’s budget may hobble the agency.

Robert's Opinion
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10/13/2018
The root cause of this issue was not the EPA. The EPA was there because greedy corporations choose profit over we the people. Hold the corporations, their suppliers and customers accountable.
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Lynne's Opinion
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10/13/2018
The corporations that released the contaminated wastewater should be required to foot this bill. Anything else is just money laundering tax dollars into private profit.
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Tanner's Opinion
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10/13/2018
The federal government should pay compensation for its role, but it should not come from the EPA budget. This bill seems designed cynically to further erode the ability of the EPA to do its job. Further context: the amount spilled by the EPA was about as much as was already leaking from the mine every 10 days.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Agriculture
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedJanuary 3rd, 2018

What is House Bill H.R. 4735?

This bill — the Gold King Mine Spill Accountability Act of 2018 — would provide compensation to persons injured by the Gold King Mine spill and fund the long-term water quality monitoring programs at the Animas and San Juan Rivers run by the New Mexico’s Long-Term Impact Review Teams. Claims may include damages resulting from: insurance deductibles, lost wages or personal income, emergency staffing expenses, debris removal and other cleanup costs, and any other loss that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator determines to be appropriate for inclusion as a financial loss. The Gold King Mine spill involved the EPA dumping of three million gallons of acid mine drainage into the previously-mentioned rivers, although the agency has resisted paying damages to those harmed by it.

It would also establish an “Office of the Gold King Mine Spill” at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deal with damage claims and other issues related to the bill.

Claims would be paid from unobligated funds appropriated to the EPA.

Impact

People affected by the Gold King Mine spill; long-term water quality monitoring in New Mexico; and the EPA.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 4735

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) introduced this bill to provide compensation to those injured by the Gold King Mine spill, and to provide funds for New Mexico’s long-term water quality monitoring program:

“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was responsible for allowing millions of gallons of contaminated waste water to spill into the Animas and San Juan Rivers in New Mexico. This put the health and livelihoods of farmers, ranchers, tribes, and businesses who depend on the water from these rivers at risk, and no one has been held responsible for the damage caused by the spill. This bill will ensure that New Mexicans affected by this spill will be rightfully compensated by setting up an office to process and better address the claims related to the spill. It will also mandate the EPA to fund a long-term water monitoring program developed by New Mexico to provide proof to the communities that the water is clean and safe following the spill. Lastly, this bill prohibits rulemaking by the EPA until all claims are processed. This recovery process has gone on way too long, and the people of New Mexico deserve certainty. A good government must be held accountable to its citizens, and this bill takes an important and necessary step forward to ensure those who were wronged are made whole.”

On January 13, 2017, the EPA said it was was legally protected from any damages from the Gold King spill — denying payment of over $1.2 billion in damages from 73 claims. However, at his nomination hearing, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged to review this decision. After visiting the site in August 2017, Pruitt reaffirmed those intentions, saying:

“When I was appointed EPA administrator by President Trump, I committed to review the Gold King Mine decision made by the previous administration. A new review is paramount to ensure that those who have, in fact, suffered losses have a fair opportunity to have their claims heard.”

Pruitt said that claims less than $2,500 would be paid by the EPA, and anything over that amount would come from a special federal fund created to pay out claims against the government. He added that some claims would require approval from the Justice Department owing to their size  However, as of January 2018, the EPA has yet to provide an update on this process.

Rep. Michael Bennet (D-CO), who has previously authored legislation to help victims of the Gold King Mine spill receive compensation from the government, doesn’t support any measure that would require a substantial cut from the EPA. His spokeswoman, Samantha Slater, said, “Michael does not believe it’s necessary to erode the EPA’s budget… in order to pay the claims.”


Of Note: The Gold King Mine spill occurred on August 5, 2015. The EPA was investigating the abandoned Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado when heavy equipment disturbed loose material around a soil “plug” at the mine entrance, causing a torrent of water to gush out. This released approximately three million gallons of acid mine drainage into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River, which flows into the San Juan River, and then into the Colorado River. The affected watershed includes six U.S. states (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California).

Shortly after the spill, the EPA claimed that water quality had returned to pre-spill levels, but a scientific team found evidence to the contrary.

Shortly after the spill, EPA officials were on hand at meetings in August 2015 to help area residents affected by the spill file claims forms. Residents were told they had up to two years from the date of the spill to file claims, which the EPA would review on an individual basis. Two months after the spill, over 30 individuals and business owners filed claims totaling $1.3 million.

As of August 2017, the EPA had spent over $29 million on response to the Gold King Mine spill, and reimbursed over $3.5 million to local, state, and tribal governments for costs incurred from the release.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: riverhugger via Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

AKA

Gold King Mine Spill Accountability Act of 2018

Official Title

To provide compensation to persons injured by the Gold King Mine spill and fund certain long-term water quality monitoring programs, and for other purposes.

    Yes. It’s environmental justice. EPA then can enforce/ fine the mining company to recoup the costs. But those people need help now.
    Like (101)
    Follow
    Share
    The root cause of this issue was not the EPA. The EPA was there because greedy corporations choose profit over we the people. Hold the corporations, their suppliers and customers accountable.
    Like (154)
    Follow
    Share
    The corporations that released the contaminated wastewater should be required to foot this bill. Anything else is just money laundering tax dollars into private profit.
    Like (95)
    Follow
    Share
    The federal government should pay compensation for its role, but it should not come from the EPA budget. This bill seems designed cynically to further erode the ability of the EPA to do its job. Further context: the amount spilled by the EPA was about as much as was already leaking from the mine every 10 days.
    Like (63)
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    The gold mine owners responsible Had been leaking and EPA tried to fix. Did not creat problem. Suits should be directed to company, stockholders and successors
    Like (32)
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    The EPA must be held accountable for its own actions.
    Like (26)
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    Let me get this disaster straight. The EPA and the Federal Government allowed the King Gold Mine Corporation and insurance companies escape paying? Maybe we taxpayers don't need the EPA. BESIDES, is this a state issue? Why must taxpayers pay for Government failures?
    Like (25)
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    If the EPA was involved in the dump they need to be part of the cleanup. If they need more money let them take it from the monies being used to incarcerate refugee children.
    Like (25)
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    The EPA has already paid their share. This bill seems like an opportunity to further depress the already depleted budget of the EPA. The onus for payment should now be placed on the corporations that allowed the contamination to occur in the first place.
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    Make the mine who left the pollution behind pay for the cleanup and compensate citizens hurt by their waste. This bill wants to prevent the EPA from making any rules, but then blames the EPA when the waste of a corporation spills and harms citizens. That makes no sense. Let the EPA do it’s job and hold corporations accountable when their irresponsible greedy behavior harms people and our lands. Holding the real culprit responsible is the only way to put a stop to this.
    Like (12)
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    The EPA is a typical big government bureaucracy, irresponsible and unaccountable with our money and our environment. It’s time to hire an outside auditing firm to go through its books and it’s time to downsize and streamline its operations and it’s time to take away its power to regulate and punish. They should only serve a research and advisory roll to congress and the executive branch. Only congress should create laws (regulate) and only the courts and law enforcement, through due process of law, punish.
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    The damage was done by the mining companies. Let them pay the damages.
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    If it's the EPA's fault, the EPA should pay for it. Out of their own budget. And if that is the only thing they can afford to do this year then shut down until you get a new year's budget. No new appropriations to cover their error.
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    I think the companies who caused the spill should take care of that.
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    If the EPA were doing its job trying to check the site for compliance then it is NOT their fault. If the dam had been cleaned and built properly then it would not have collapsed. The blame lies and should be paid by the mining company. All mining companies should be held accountable to return the land as they found it after mining. Including filling and or appropriate revegetation after finishing.
    Like (8)
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    EPA is for protecting the environment they caused this and even took responsibility. It is their responsibility to clean this up. The company was under contract from EPA too, so if the company is at fault it is still epa’s issue by not overseeing their contract companies correctly..
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    The government should compensate the people affected by the mine spill. However, don’t gut the EPA’s budget in order to do it!
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    The mining company needs to pay!
    Like (7)
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    In the info section it states that the EPA (itself) accidentally dumped the toxins? Not the mines? If this is so they should pay. If not, the mines should.
    Like (5)
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    Enforce accountability. If the EPA should be doing anything, they should be charging a fine to the corporation for every day they are not handling up on this issue.
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