Contact Us

Newsroom

News Releases By Date

 

Proposed Legislation Seeks Cleanup of Abandoned Mines

Release Date: 05/10/2006
Contact Information: Jennifer Wood, (202) 564-4355 / wood.jennifer@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C. - May 10, 2006) The Good Samaritan Clean Watershed Act aims to lower legal roadblocks to cleaning up more than half a million abandoned hardrock mines that litter the American landscape. The legislation, introduced on behalf of the Bush Administration, would remove the potential liability for volunteer organizations willing to restore watersheds affected by acid drainage from the mines.

"Environmental responsibility is everyone's responsibility, and President Bush and EPA are equipping America's eager army of citizen conservationists with the essential tools to protect our shared environment," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Through the Good Samaritan legislation, President Bush is clearing legal roadblocks to restore America's watersheds."

Last August, as part of the President's Conference on Cooperative Conservation, EPA announced the Good Samaritan Initiative to encourage voluntary efforts to reduce pollution from abandoned hardrock mining sites. A "Good Samaritan" is a person or organization that neither caused the contamination nor is legally responsible for the cleanup.

"Last year, I introduced S. 1848, the Good Samaritan 'Cleanup of Inactive and Abandoned Mines Act.' We welcome the administration's support for Good Samaritan legislation, and we are hopeful that we can enact legislation before the end of the 109th Congress," said Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.).

Inactive or abandoned mines can pose serious public safety and environmental hazards. Acid drainage from such mines, most of which are located in the western United States, damages watersheds and degrades water quality.

Many of the mines are on private land, and the parties responsible for the pollution and cleanup no longer exist. Although Good Samaritans have been willing to adopt these orphaned mines, lingering legal obstacles have blocked efforts by citizen volunteers not responsible for the pollution to clean up abandoned mine sites, despite the environmental benefits. Under current law, anyone cleaning up an abandoned mine site could become liable for the entire cleanup and any runoff from the site.

"There are many old mining sites throughout the Rocky Mountain West in desperate need of clean up. Passing a Good Samaritan bill will encourage good actors to come in and clean up some of these numerous abandoned mines that dot our western landscape. I am pleased the EPA has joined this effort," said Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.).

The Good Samaritan Clean Watershed Act maintains strong environmental safeguards. It establishes a streamlined permit process that outlines who is eligible for a permit, the sites for which permits may be issued, and what must be included in the permit. The process also provides local citizens and communities with an opportunity to provide input on any Good Samaritan project.

The applicant is required to provide a plan to clean up the site that details a schedule, financial resources, and how to dispose of any waste. The plan must ensure that the project improves the environment.

More information on the Good Samaritan Clean Watershed Act: epa.gov/goodsamaritan/