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Colorado lawmakers aim to create a good samaritan program under the Clean Water Act for abandoned mine cleanups

Bipartisan push could speed remediation projects

Pennsylvania Mine, Summit County Colorado.

The abandoned Pennsylvania Mine is the source of heavy metal pollution in Peru Creek and the Snake River. bberwynphoto.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A few months after the EPA unveiled new regulatory guidance for abandoned mine remediation, a bipartisan pair of Colorado lawmakers launched a new push to speed cleanups.

The new law proposed by Senator Mark Udall and Congressman Scott Tipton would give Good Samaritan groups additional binding legal safeguards they need to remediate the sites and clean up tainted streams. There are more than 7,000 abandoned hard rock mine sites located in Colorado and thousands more throughout the West.

“Runoff from abandoned mines throughout Colorado and the West threaten our water quality, wildlife and local economies. This common-sense, bipartisan legislation will further unleash so-called Good Samaritan groups and allow them to help address this problem,” Udall said. Continue reading

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Environment: EPA guidance to aid abandoned mine cleanups

Good Samaritan groups to get better protection from Clean Water Act liability

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Efforts to clean up toxic heavy metal pollution at the abandoned Pennsylvania mine site in Summit County, Colorado, could get a boost from new EPA guidance that gives Good Samaritan groups some degree of protection from Clean Water Act liability. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — New guidance from top EPA officials could speed remediation of abandoned Colorado mine sites by clarifying the terms of cleanup agreements between the federal agency and Good Samaritan groups.

The memo from EPA national headquarters to the agency’s regional offices extends the legal liability protections in cleanup agreements and specifies that Good Samaritans are generally not responsible for obtaining a Clean Water Act permit during or after a successful cleanup conducted according to a Good Samaritan agreement with EPA. Read the memo here.

The complex structure of the Clean Water Act has, in some cases, prevented community groups from proceeding with cleanups because of concerns over future liability for pollution. Continue reading

Sen. Udall seeks to ease Good Samaritan mine cleanups

The abandoned Pennsylvannia Mine in Summit County, Colorado, is a significant source of pollution. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Colorado lawmaker tries to rally support on Senate floor; asks EPA for relief

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Sen. Mark Udall last week renewed his efforts to find ways to enable Good Samaritans to clean up some of the many abandoned mine sites scattered around Colorado and the West.

In addition to trying to rally political support with a speech on the Senate floor, Udall sent a letter to the EPA asking for a change in policy that would give Good Samaritans some legal certainty when it comes to the liability for cleanup efforts. Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Barbara Boxer of California also signed the letter.

Certain legal hooks in the Clean Water Act make it challenging for volunteers, so Udall is looking for ways that would enable Good Samaritans to clean up those contaminated sites without assuming full legal liability for contamination they did not create. Continue reading

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