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EARTHWORKS Press Statement for immediate release, 9/13/2006

*** Decade-old debate on cleaning up our polluted water continues unresolved

For More Information:
Lauren Pagel –
202-887-1872 x 207
Cathy Carlson –

Washington, D.C. — Though well-intentioned, the hardrock abandoned mine legislation passed today by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will do little to solve the problems from old mines. Instead, it creates new loopholes in environmental laws for mining companies.

In the West, the biggest obstacle to tackling water pollution from old mines is the lack of funding. States, local governments, and local non-profit organizations simply don't have the resources to act as “Good Samaritans” to clean up the rivers and streams. Chairman's Inhofe's substitute to the bill originally introduced by Colorado Senators Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar, S. 1848, falls short of its goal to reduce water pollution.

The bill could create a whole new gold rush, where mining companies can explore for minerals left behind in abandoned operations and extract those minerals for profit, provided they submit a plan to restore water quality as part of the mining effort. In return for their efforts, companies receive a waiver of up to five of the Nation s premier environmental laws as well as state and local laws, and are shielded from any future environmental liability, even if the water pollution is made worse.

The public deserves clean water. This legislation is a step in the wrong direction.

EARTHWORKS hopes today's debate will continue to draw attention to the need to restore the thousands of miles of rivers polluted with heavy metals and acid drainage from the mining of metals such as gold, copper and silver.


EARTHWORKS is an environmental non-profit dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of destructive mining, digging and drilling. earthworks.org