WASHINGTON – A bill introduced by U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) to clean up abandoned mines is gaining widespread support.
The Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act makes it easier for “Good Samaritans” such as state agencies, local governments, nonprofits, and other groups, to clean up and improve water quality in and around abandoned hardrock mines.
In addition to Risch and Heinrich, the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act now has 24 cosponsors.
A coalition of 41 conservation groups, including organizations representing millions of hunters, anglers, public land advocates, and wildlife professionals, sent a letterurging Congress to pass the legislation.
Leaders and organizations are praising the Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act. Here’s what they are saying:
“There is no constituency for orange water and no one responsible for cleaning up the abandoned mines causing it,” said President and CEO of Trout Unlimited Chris Wood. “We’re excited for Congress to take bipartisan action that will allow organizations such as TU to step in and help protect our communities and clean our rivers and streams. We thank Senators Heinrich and Risch for their years of attention to addressing the greatest threat to water quality in our nation.”
“Abandoned mines have left a terrible environmental legacy across the country, one of contaminated water, poisoned communities, and nobody to be held responsible. The Good Samaritan is one who is willing to help, not because of what they could gain, but because they know it's right. It is only appropriate that they should be given every opportunity to take on these challenges. This legislation would ease the way for state and local governments and non-profits to take on responsible abandoned mine cleanups without saddling them with the same liability as the ones who caused the mess in the first place. The outcome is cleaner water, improved public health and economic development that will enrich frontline communities. The Nature Conservancy supports this pilot approach and hopes it will be a model for an era of environmental restoration across the United States,” said Tom Cors, Senior Director for Legislative Affairs, The Nature Conservancy.
“It is encouraging that the mining industry, environmental organizations, local communities and a robust group of bipartisan policymakers have come together in support of commonsense legislation to tackle the cleanup of legacy mine sites. This legislation reflects the shared wish by these diverse groups to problem solve and achieve progress that will allow industry, conservation groups and other Good Samaritans to use the best in equipment, skills and experience to clean up legacy sites without fear of incurring additional legal liability; it’s past time our shared vision becomes the environmental progress we all desire,” said President and CEO of the National Mining Association Rich Nolan.
“AEMA is very grateful to Senators Heinrich and Risch for their continued leadership, and all the cosponsors for their support of this important legislation,”said American Exploration & Mining Association (AEMA) Executive Director Mark Compton. “The mining industry has the desire, the experience, the technology, the expertise and the capital to remediate and reclaim AMLs, and Good Samaritan legislation is critical to addressing these historic, pre-regulation sites. The bipartisan nature of S. 2781, along with diverse stakeholder support, shows that this bill can be a ‘win-win-win-win’ for the environment, for the Good Samaritan, for the community, and for society.”
“Investing in a bright future powered by clean energy won't pay off unless we also raise the bar on mining for critical minerals used in the technologies that will get us there. This bipartisan bill will help to heal the damage caused by past mining operations, while making good-paying jobs and clean water more abundant in local communities. As a U.S. manufacturer of high-performance electric vehicles, we’re proud to stand alongside this bill’s bipartisan sponsors and a wide range of conservation and industry groups to support the global energy transition without compromising on social and environmental wellbeing,” said Rivian Director of Public Policy Dan West.
"Hundreds of thousands of abandoned mines are releasing toxic pollutants into the environment every day, posing a major threat to water quality and public health. Current policies punish nonprofit conservation organizations and private companies who want to clean up the mines by forcing them to accept full liability for century-old problems they did not create. This legislation is urgently needed to empower Good Samaritans to help address this crisis, restore watersheds, and improve environmental health," said Jonathan Wood, VP of Law and Policy, Property and Environment Research Center and author of Prospecting for Pollution, a comprehensive report outlining the need for Good Samaritan reform.
“For decades communities in the western United States have been struggling to clean up waste at abandoned mine sites. These degraded lands deserve a second chance, and the bill provides that. At Regeneration, we have our shovels ready to clean up sites, restore habitats, and help local communities,” said Regeneration President & CEO Stephen D'Esposito.
"Our work at EcoFlight provides an eye in the sky (the aerial perspective) for conservation issues. From the plane we see so many abandoned mines sites throughout the West in need of remediation. It is obvious there is a tremendous opportunity for cleanups to happen which will have positive impacts on fish and wildlife, hunting and fishing, cleaner water and local job creation. Congress can untie the hands of volunteers who want to help tackle this enormous problem and we thank Senators Heinrich and Risch for their leadership on this vexing issue,” said Founder of EcoFlight Bruce Gordon.
“Abandoned mines, some dating back to the 19th century, continue to drain toxic heavy metals into our waterways, and existing law makes it extremely difficult to clean them up,” said Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership President and CEO Whit Fosburgh. “We applaud today’s introduction of legislation that would make it easier for Good Samaritans to clean up abandoned hard rock mines and improve water quality—benefiting both communities’ water supplies and fisheries.”
“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) applauds Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Sen. Heinrich and past Co-Chair Sen. Risch for introducing and championing the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2022,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President and CEO Jeff Crane. “This common-sense legislation will provide much needed and strategic liability protections to those attempting to enhance fish and wildlife through the restoration of abandoned mine lands, which pose significant challenges for conservation efforts across the nation.”
"Our wetlands and their watersheds are the most biologically rich natural landscapes in the United States. They sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide at greater rates than other plant communities except our coastal and ocean systems. But they are very sensitive to pollution, especially from the tens of thousands of mines that are abandoned across our country. There is no higher priority than to protect the health and function of our wetland systems for fish, wildlife and human communities that depend upon this precious natural resource. Senators Heinrich and Risch are to be applauded for their leadership to introduce and pass this legislation that is so important to the health of the wetland landscapes of the United States," said Fly Fishers International Conservation Committee Chair Kathleen Bergeron.
“This Good Samaritan legislation is desperately needed to unlock critical reclamation funds and jumpstart cleanups of abandoned mines and the League is proud to endorse it. Fighting for clean water has been a core mission of the League for one hundred years. We applaud Senators Heinrich and Risch for their leadership in addressing the legacy of orphaned mines and their effects on America’s water quality,” said Izaak Walton League of America Conservation Director Jared Mott.
“The Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2022 is an incredibly important tool to kickstart the remediation of environmentally low-risk abandoned mine sites across the country. Remediation of mining sites, and especially those that have been abandoned, is crucially important to restoring landscape-level environmental services and creating productive wildlife habitat. Deer everywhere thrive in edge and regenerating habitats, and the National Deer Association is happy to support this legislation,” said National Deer Association Director of Policy Torin Miller.
“Abandoned hardrock mines have contaminated our waters and lands with toxic pollution for more than a century and a half — putting wildlife, drinking water, and communities at risk. The bipartisan Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act is a long-overdue, common-sense bill that will accelerate cleanup efforts by removing barriers for conservation groups and partners, so they can reclaim degraded landscapes and restore critically important waterways,” said the National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Collin O’Mara. “We commend the leadership of Senator Heinrich, Senator Risch, and all of the bipartisan co-sponsors for forging a path forward on this critical issue.”
"We thank Sens. Heinrich and Risch for their stalwart effort on this commonsense legislation that would facilitate the cleanup of abandoned hardrock mines by addressing liabilities that have long-prevented Good Samaritans from restoring degraded public lands and waters. With an estimated 33,0000 abandoned mines actively contaminating our rivers and streams, allowing conservation organizations and other entities to tackle these projects will benefit fish and wildlife habitat, generate new jobs, enhance hunting and fishing opportunities, and establish strong standards for restoration and stewardship of our natural resources,” said Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Vice President of Policy and Government Relations John Gale.
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