Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., marked the second anniversary of the Gold King Mine disaster by calling it an "injustice" that the Environmental Protection Agency caused but has yet to rectify.
The Aug. 5, 2015 spill at the abandoned gold mine in Colorado sent 3 million gallons of toxic waste water and sludge into the Animas River, sullying the waterways of three states. Yet, as the Democrat recalled in a statement Saturday, the Navajo Nation, farmers, ranchers, and local communities harmed by the disaster are "still waiting for our government to make them whole."
Udall called it "an injustice, and it's long past time that the EPA acted to correct it," saying "the victims of the Gold King Mine spill must be compensated for their hardship."
Udall joined with the New Mexico delegation earlier in the week to introduce legislation to stop another disaster like the Gold King Mine blowout from occurring again.
President Trump's EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, was in the town of Silverton, Colo., on Friday to tour the mine site with senators and congressmen. He later met with them for a town hall meeting. Ahead of the meeting, Pruitt said his mission was to restore trust between those affected by the spill and the agency.
Udall touted Pruitt for announcing his decision to allow local communities to file claims with the file government, an action about which the Obama administration was criticized for blocking persons from doing in the wake of the spill.
"Yesterday, EPA Administrator Pruitt announced that the EPA will reverse its earlier decision and allow victims of the spill to file for compensation," Udall said. "While I wholeheartedly agree that the victims of Gold King Mine spill deserve to be made whole, Administrator Pruitt must take action to ensure that all affected individuals and communities – especially New Mexicans and the Navajo Nation — receive equal treatment and consideration in this process."
The spill spurred criticism by both Democrats and Republicans, resulting in an investigation that was "clear and conclusive: the EPA made several serious mistakes that led to the spill, and the agency owes it to the people of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation to compensate the victims," Udall said.
Udall joined with a bipartisan group of senators and congressmen from his state in a letter urging that all parties be included in decision to receive compensation forms. The letter stated that they have heard that New Mexico and the Navajo are not going to be included in the compensation reversal.
"It is ... our understanding that claims made by the Navajo Nation and the State of New Mexico are not going to be reconsidered. If true, this unequal treatment would be very disappointing and we would seek clarification on this matter, and reconsideration of this decision," the letter stated.
The letter was sent by Democratic Sens. Udall, Martin Heinrich, and Reps. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.