New Mex­ico con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion fears it’ll be left out of EPA’s Gold King prom­ises

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jesse Paul

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.

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