EPA head says he will consider paying damages from Gold King Mine spill

The EPA says Pruitt spoke about the agency’s intent to promote environmental stewardship without costing coal industry jobs.

Interior of the Gold King Mine. (Flickr/EPA)

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency says he will consider paying for economic damages from a 2015 mine waste spill triggered by agency crews.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told The Denver Post on Friday that he’s asked farmers, business owners and residents whose claims were previously rejected to submit them again.

His comments came as he joined Colorado’s governor and congressional members on a tour of the mine on the eve of the disaster’s second anniversary.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennett and Cory Gardner, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman were also in attendance, the Post reports.

The EPA designated the Gold King and 47 other sites in the area a Superfund district last year.

The spill sent 3 million gallons of tainted wastewater into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, causing an estimated $420 million in damage.

Under the Obama administration, the EPA said federal law prevented it from paying claims because of sovereign immunity, which prohibits most lawsuits against the government.

Pruitt went to Cloud Peak Energy’s offices in the Denver suburb of Broomfield Thursday. Cloud Peak operates coal mines in Wyoming and Montana.

The EPA says Pruitt spoke about the agency’s intent to promote environmental stewardship without costing coal industry jobs.

He later visited the Frasier ranch in Woodrow, about 90 miles east of Denver, and criticized a water pollution rule established by the Obama administration. The Trump administration is rolling back the rule.