Today Senator Udall (D-CO) and Rep. Tipton (R-CO) introduced the Good Samaritan Clean Up of Abandoned Hard Mines Act of 2013 (Good Sam). Earthworks welcomes this common sense bipartisan solution to one of the most pervasive pollution problems in the West- the enormous damage to water quality caused by acid drainage from approximately 500,000 abandoned mines. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that 40% of the Western headwaters have pollution from mining. Clean up costs total an estimated $32-$72 billion. The Udall/Tipton bill provides one long sought solution: allow conservation organizations to perform their own clean up. Much of the hard work and progress in this area belongs to our friends at Trout Unlimited. Preventing these good samaritans from taking on the monumental task of cleaning up abandoned mines are quirks in the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund law).
The science is in: the antiquated 1872 Mining Law, “has outlived its purpose and its environmental consequences have been severe.”
In a terrific op-ed in the New York Times, fisheries scientists Carol Ann Woody and Robert Hughes, express their deep concern about the impact mining has had on the nation’s dwindling fisheries and the inadequacy of the 1872 Mining Law to regulate modern mining.
With stunning facts and figures, the two scientists describe the tremendous toll to our nation’s rivers and streams, native fish, and public lands, and highlight the risk to important native fish populations in Oregon's Chetco Wild and Scenic River and Montana's Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.