Friday, August 04, 2017

EPA chief to reconsider paying claims over mine waste spill in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico

The Environmental Protection Agency will reconsider whether to pay farmers, business owners and others in three states for economic losses caused by a mine waste spill that government crews accidentally triggered in 2015, the agency’s leader said Friday during a visit to the site. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who toured Gold King Mine with Colorado lawmakers on the eve of the disaster’s second anniversary, said he told people to resubmit claims rejected under the Obama administration. It’s not clear if the agency could pay on its own or how much of the potential payouts would need to be approved by Congress. The spill sent 3 million gallons of tainted wastewater from the old gold mine into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, causing an estimated $420 million in economic damages. The EPA has designated the area a Superfund site to pay for a broad cleanup. Stretches of waterways turned an eerie orange-yellow, and the rivers were temporarily off-limits for agriculture and water utilities, as well as fishing and boating — important contributors to the area’s recreational economy. The EPA has said water quality has returned to the conditions before the spill. Native American reservations along the rivers also were affected. Pruitt, who had promised to visit the mine during his confirmation hearing earlier this year, said he has sent letters to people whose claims were rejected by former President Barack Obama’s EPA...more

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