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Statement of Earthworks Executive Director Jennifer Krill regarding Mar 2 hearing before Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

“Earthworks applauds the work of Senator Bennet and Senator Gardner in developing the Discussion Draft of the Good Samaritan Cleanup of Orphan Mines Act of 2016. But Good Samaritans alone cannot clean up the hundreds of thousands of abandoned and inactive mines that pollute Western communities and water resources.

While a handful of Good Samaritans may tackle a few mine reclamation projects, the scope of the problem will dwarf their best efforts. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that reclamation of abandoned and inactive mines could cost more than $50 billion.

Complicated and expensive clean ups, like the Gold King Mine that recently spilled millions of gallons of mine waste into the Animas River, require a dedicated cleanup fund with significant resources. Too many of the abandoned mines that litter the west are far larger and more complicated than a Good Samaritan can handle.

The best solution to protect water and western communities from toxic mine waste is mining reform of the 1872 Mining Law that includes a robust reclamation fee, like the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act sponsored by Senators Bennet, Udall, Heinrich, Markey and Wyden.”