Supreme Court won’t hear Gold King Mine spill case

Supreme Court won’t hear Gold King Mine spill case
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The Supreme Court will not hear arguments in a legal dispute between two states stemming from the 2015 Gold King Mine waste spill, the court announced on Monday. 

New Mexico had sued Colorado for its role in the mine spill, which released 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into the Animas River. That river feeds into the San Juan River, which flows through New Mexico. 

The state was seeking unspecified damages in its lawsuit, which went directly to the Supreme Court, as is typical for legal disputes between states. In May, the federal government urged the court to dismiss the suit.


The court declined Monday to hear arguments in the case and did not issue an opinion explaining the decision, though Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said they would let the suit move forward. 

James Hallinan, a spokesman for New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, said the ruling “only limited the venue in which the State of Colorado can be sued for the harm done to New Mexico children, families and businesses.”

Balderas “will continue to fight for economic, social and environmental justice until New Mexico is compensated appropriately by all parties responsible for the horrific impacts of the Gold King Mine spill,” he said.

The August 2015 Gold King Mine spill kicked off a flurry of lawsuits over environmental damage and government incompetence.

In New Mexico’s lawsuit against Colorado, New Mexico officials alleged Colorado was “reckless” leading up to the spill, calling it “the coup de grâce of two decades of disastrous environmental decision-making by Colorado, for which New Mexico and its citizens are now paying the price.”

Colorado disputed that claim and instead turned its attention to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has claimed responsibility for the spill because it employed the contractors whose work trigged the incident. 

New Mexico and the Navajo Nation have sued the EPA over the spill. Government lawyers in February asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the agency is immune to claims under environmental laws because the contamination at the Gold King site was created by others. 

—Updated at 6:28 p.m.