Protect our ‘Good Samaritans’
Last week’s discoloration of the Blue River through stretches of Breckenridge is just another reminder of our legacy in the county: Mining is here and will be until we clean sites up, one by one, to mitigate their potential for future contamination and spilling.The incident last week was relatively harmless, but multiply that times the 23,000 inactive or abandoned mines in Colorado, and the whole state begins to resemble one large “Superfund site.”In the past, the burden of cleanup has fallen on a void. The issue of liability is mostly the reason the B&B purchase agreement took years to finalize.That lengthy process proved a point: Incentives must be in place to deal with old mines underfoot, which will take decades to mitigate, or those willing to handle the cleanup will never be allowed to begin their work. In a joint letter with Sen. Wayne Allard on Friday, Sen. Ken Salazar pressed the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works to hold a hearing and discuss a bill providing the necessary protection to our “Good Samaritans.”The “Cleanup of Inactive and Abandoned Mines Act,” or S. 1848, encourages communities or small groups to complete cleanups pursuant to a permit issued by the EPA, which then protects them from liabilities outside a carefully considered cleanup plan. State approval and full public participation would be required in every instance. Yet this would give more flexibility to local municipalities to deal with the problem and not worry about a future multi-million dollar bill titled, “It’s your problem now.”To us in the High Country, this bill is a no-brainer, to not penalize groups for attempting to make our communities cleaner, safer places to live. Otherwise, our historical legacy will return, periodically, like a filthy relative, only to leave an awful mess.
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