Dem offers bill to prevent toxic mine spills

Animas River, EPA, Colorado, mine waste
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A top Democrat is offering a bill to prevent future toxic waste spills at abandoned mines. 

The legislation, introduced on Wednesday, comes after a high-profile spill at a disused Colorado gold mine in August, when a team of government contractors on a clean-up job released 3 million gallons of waste into the Animas River. 

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In the wake of the incident, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is pushing a bill to require new federal regulations for work at abandoned coal and hardrock mines. The bill calls for professional engineering reviews and more advanced planning for operations at potentially risky mines, as well as new safety recommendations from a Bureau of Reclamation report into the Animas spill. 

“This bill uses the lessons we learned in Colorado to make sure this accident isn’t repeated,” Grijalva, the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. 

“We know how to make these kinds of spills less likely in the future, so let’s take some action, protect the people impacted by these abandoned mines and support the folks we ask to clean them up.”

Republicans have sharply criticized the federal government’s response to the Animas incident, holding a string of hearings last year into the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) role in the spill.

The incident was caused by a group of contractors working at the abandoned Gold King Mine in Colorado. An Interior Department investigation determined the EPA rushed engineering work at the mine before the incident and that the spill was preventable.