Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Navajo Nation vows to fight EPA for toxic mine spill

Navajo Nation officials say they are outraged the Environmental Protection Agency is refusing to pay millions of dollars in claims filed against it following the devastating Colorado Gold Mine spill. The federal agency has accepted responsibility for the August 2015 disaster, which devastated farm and grazing lands in southern Colorado and northwest New Mexico. But it announced late last week that it was not legally able to pay claims submitted by farmers and livestock owners. “The Navajo Nation call upon our Congressional leaders from the states of Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona to do what is right for our people by demanding that the U.S. EPA reconsider its decision and that the U.S. EPA provide full compensation to the many Navajo people who sustained extensive losses due to the spill that was caused by the agency,” Navajo Nation speaker Lorenzo Bates said last Saturday. “When the law allows the government to hide from those whom it has harmed, the law must change,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said in a statement. In a dramatic speech on the banks of the Animas River last August, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye announced that the tribe was filing a $159 million lawsuit for damages and $3.2 million to cover expenses that had not been paid. The suit was in response to what the tribe said was an inadequate gesture by the EPA to reimburse them $602,000. Last Friday, the EPA said it was legally prohibited from paying the claims because of sovereign immunity, which prohibits most lawsuits against the government. The agency said the only legal option left is to either refile the claims in federal court or have Congress authorize the payments...more

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