New Mexico congressional delegation fears it’ll be left out of EPA’s Gold King promises
All five members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation say they are worried some promises made by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt during his trip Friday to the Gold King Mine won’t apply to their state and the Navajo Nation.
The federal lawmakers said in a letter to Pruitt that “it is … our understanding” that rejected damage claims from the massive 2015 spill at the Gold King made by the state and the tribe won’t be reconsidered, unlike rebuffed claims made by citizens and businesses across the areas impacted by the disaster.
“If true, this unequal treatment would be very disappointing and we would seek clarification on this matter, and reconsideration of this as well,” the letter said. “Finally, we strongly believe the EPA needs to support and provide funding for independent water-testing by the state of New Mexico.”
Signers of the letters include New Mexico’s U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, as well as U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Luján and Michaell Lujan Grisham.
Pruitt, in an interview Friday with The Denver Post, called Colorado’s rejected claims a “wrong” that the Trump administration intends to address. The EPA recently sent letters to 77 claimants, saying the agency would reconsider their previously denied claims.
The state of New Mexico sued the EPA and the state of Colorado over the 3 million-gallon, EPA-triggered wastewater spill on Aug. 5, 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, declined to hear the case but said New Mexico could pursue its claims in a lower court.
The Navajo Nation also sued the EPA over the spill and filed a claim seeking $160 million in damages with the agency. And Utah, which was also affected, filed an administrative claim with the agency in February seeking $1.9 billion.
The EPA did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Monday.
Saturday was the twoyear anniversary of the Gold King disaster. The spill turned the Animas River a mustard-yellow color as sludge moved down the waterway — through Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and American Indian land. The EPA has designated the mine a federal Superfund cleanup site, which Pruitt vowed on Friday to make a priority even as President Donald Trump seeks to slash funding for the program.