‘Good Samaritan’ Senate Bill Would Enable Remediation of Abandoned Mines

News for Immediate Release
Sept. 13, 2023
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, [email protected]

 Legislation heeds the calls of hunters, anglers for Congress to expediate cleanup of old mining sites

WASHINGTON – Senate legislation introduced in the 118th Congress today, the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act, would facilitate the cleanup and restoration of public lands and waters negatively impacted by past mining activities.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, along with other hunting and angling groups, have resoundingly urged Congress to provide a path forward for interested entities to tackle cleanup projects of public lands mining sites without assuming liabilities. Introduced by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Jim Risch (R-ID), the bill would authorize a pilot program that allows a limited number permits for “Good Samaritans” to carry out remediation projects on abandoned mine sites over the next seven years.

Hunters and anglers have long advocated for Good Samaritan legislation to address acid mine drainage that compromises the health of public lands and waters and fish and wildlife populations. Currently, only the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to treat discharged mine water from abandoned mine sites, leaving entities wishing to clean up mining sites permanently liable for the site and any remaining pollution. Giving these entities the ability to restore these sites will help address remediation of many of the thousands of smaller abandoned mines that are not a priority for the EPA.

Original cosponsors include Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Steve Daines, (R-MT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), John Barrasso (R-WY), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), John Thune (R-SD), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Boozman (R-AR), Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“We thank Senators Heinrich and Risch for their stalwart effort on this commonsense legislation that would facilitate the cleanup of abandoned hardrock mines,” said John Gale, BHA vice president of policy and government relations. “By addressing liabilities that have long prevented Good Samaritans from restoring degraded public lands and waters, we all stand to gain.

“With an estimated 33,0000 abandoned mines actively contaminating our rivers and streams,” Gale continued, “allowing conservation organizations and other entities to tackle these projects will benefit fish and wildlife habitat, generate new jobs, enhance hunting and fishing opportunities, and establish strong standards for restoration and stewardship of our natural resources.”

Today’s bill introduction follows yesterday’s release of a new report by the U.S. Department of the Interior-led Interagency Working Group on Mining Laws, Regulations and Permitting. Informed by tens of thousands of public comments, as well as numerous working group meetings with external stakeholders, the report outlines 65 recommendations for modernizing the country’s outdated mining system.

“The IWG believes that Congress should enact Good Samaritan legislation to facilitate abandoned mine land remediation,” the report reads. “Legislation should limit liability for any organization seeking to undertake the voluntary cleanup and closure of abandoned mine sites.”

BHA members are asking Congress to expedite passage of the Good Samaritan bill.

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