Mr. Chairman, I appreciate joining you and others for today’s hearing as we learn more about how liability concerns may be impacting the clean up of abandoned hardrock mines across the country.
There is no doubt that the 500,000 abandoned hardrock mines poses varying degrees of risk to the public – including watersheds.
As the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Superfund and Waste Management, I can tell you that I have learned a great deal since joining this Committee – including some of the pitfalls associated with the our environmental laws – such as Superfund which has a stringent liability scheme that can impede clean-ups by innocent parties.
As a Senator who hails from a western state that experienced a gold rush in the 1870’s, I can certainly understand the concerns raised by Senators Allard and Salazar as they work to address a major issue that continues to impact residents of their home state.
I applaud the President and Administrator Johnson for joining us today to better explain why a Good Samaritan provision is needed to help address the impact of abandoned mines and the discharge of pollutants that continue to this day.
Lastly, I understand that some on this Committee oppose any effort to establish Good Samaritan protections for hardrock mine clean-up because they feel the Superfund program should pay for the cost of clean-up. I would like to point out that the Superfund Program has limited resources and not all abandoned mine sites quality for such spending.
While, emergency removal funding can be used to protect human health, regardless if a site is listed on the National Priority List (NPL), removal funding is limited to a one-year effort totaling not more than $2 million. Also, long term remediation costs can only be paid for out of the Superfund program if a site is listed on the NPL.
I believe this distinction is important to keep in mind due to the larger Superfund clean-up needs that exist throughout the country.
Seeing that proposals to provide Good Samaritan protection are in no way a solution for the clean-up of all abandoned hardrock mines, I do believe that if Congress can provide some ability for interested parties to clean up pollution from abandoned mines then that’s something we should all support.