Testimony of Earthworks Executive Director Jennifer Krill re Discussion Draft of the Good Samaritan Cleanup of Orphan Mines Act of 2016
Excerpts from the testimony:
Good Samaritan Policies Alone Won’t Solve the Problem
To solve the problem of perpetual pollution from inactive and abandoned hardrock mines, we must reform the 1872 Mining Law and institute a reclamation fee similar to the one paid by the coal industry. Good Samaritan initiatives cannot solve the massive problem faced by western communities and water resources due to abandoned mine pollution.
Complicated, expensive clean ups like the Gold King Mine require a dedicated cleanup fund with significant resources, not a Good Samaritan. If Congress had reformed the 1872 Mining Law and created an abandoned mine reclamation fund, Silverton, Colorado would have had the ability to clean up surrounding old mines years before they became a catastrophic threat.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an existing and clear administrative process for bona fide Good Samaritans to clean up abandoned or inactive mines – yet pollution from abandoned mines continues. To facilitate the Good Samaritan work of civic, religious, and conservation organizations, the EPA has created a process through which qualified projects can receive what is effectively a Good Samaritan permit. Due to lack of funds, very few mines have been cleaned up compared to the scope of the problem.