Attorney General Reyes Issues Statement Following Briefings with Colorado & New Mexico Attorneys General on Gold King Mine Spill
SALT LAKE CITY August 12, 2015 – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes today joined Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas in Durango, Colo., to share information and discuss the immediate and possible long term impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gold King Mine spill.
“One of the reasons I am in Durango today is to discuss with my colleagues from Colorado and New Mexico legal options to ensure the EPA lives up to its promise to be fully accountable and transparent – and to make our citizens and environment whole,” said Utah Attorney General Reyes. “It is premature to say what legal action will be taken until we better understand the damage that has been and is occurring and also learn what the EPA is willing to compensate. In that process, we will ensure the EPA, and any other potentially liable entities, are held legally responsible not just for short term effects but for damage that may not be known or understood for years to come.”
Upon notice of the disaster, a team of lawyers from the Office of the Utah Attorney General lent support to the vitally important actions of its clients including the Utah Departments of Environmental Quality and Public Safety – and their Divisions of Water Quality and Emergency Management. These agencies began immediate monitoring of impacts to Utah’s waters and evaluating short and long-term health, environmental and recreational impacts to Utah citizens and tribal nations along the San Juan River.
Currently, citizens can make compensation claims directly to the EPA and the Utah Attorney General’s Office will advocate for timely and fair review of such claims.
“I am here today to ensure Utah has a voice in this process – because Utah citizens need an advocate,” continued General Reyes. “While I cannot represent citizens directly as a private lawyer, I can work to make sure there is a proper system to assess harms and claims.”
State, county and local officials are collaborating to protect and assist Utah citizens in this emergency while attempting to get answers from the EPA and hold the agency fully accountable for its actions.
“Utah has welcomed collaboration with neighboring states to share expertise, resources, information and possibly costs moving forward. Utah, along with its sister states, is evaluating all legal options and will do everything within its power to ensure our citizens are protected and that our states are made whole for any damages caused,” concluded General Reyes. “And we are supportive of an independent review of the circumstances leading to the mass release in addition to any internal review by the EPA.”