WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered remarks before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) regarding their bipartisan Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act. This legislation 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.
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“Mining has a long and rich history in my home state of Idaho,” said Risch. “As we work to further advance security and clean energy capabilities and shore up supply chains, Idaho’s supplies of critical and strategic minerals will play a central role.”
“I can tell you from experience it is rare to have industry, conservation, and recreation groups rally around a singular uniting issue the way they have with this legislation,” he continued.
“These good faith actors are ready and invested in remediating these legacy sites. […] We owe it to our Western communities and all Americans who hold dear our vast public lands to empower and encourage them to do what’s allowed under this bill,” said Risch.
“[This legislation] has broad support, including state environment departments, Tribes, mining companies, hunting and fishing groups, conservation groups, local elected officials, and many more. […] This broad support comes from the fact that our communities can’t wait any longer to start cleaning up this pollution,” said Heinrich.
The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), and John Thune (R-S.D.).
The legislation has received support from Trout Unlimited, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Property and Environment Research Center, National Deer Association, National Wildlife Federation, National Mining Association, American Exploration and Mining Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Izaak Walton League of America, and the Outdoor Alliance.
Senator Risch’s full remarks can be viewed here.
The full EPW Committee hearing can be viewed here.
Background: The U.S. has hundreds of thousands of abandoned hardrock mine features, of which 22,500 pose environmental hazards according to the GAO. Organizations that have no legal or financial responsibility to an abandoned mine – true Good Samaritans – want to volunteer to remediate some of these sites. Unfortunately, liability rules would leave these Good Samaritans legally responsible for all the pre-existing pollution from a mine, even though they had no involvement with the mine prior to cleaning it up.
The Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act creates a pilot permitting program to enable not-for-profit cleanup efforts to move forward, while ensuring Good Samaritans have the skills and resources to comply with federal oversight. This pilot program is designed for lower risk projects which will improve water and soil quality or otherwise protect human health.
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