Nation seeking to recover costs from spill, ongoing environmental monitoring
The Navajo Nation filed a claim Monday seeking more than $160 million from the federal government for damages tied to last year’s Gold King Mine disaster in Colorado, which sent three million gallons of toxic sludge into nearby waterways and triggered environmental concerns in several states.
In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Navajo Nation requested $3.2 million to cover costs already incurred as a result of the spill, and another $159 million to pay for ongoing environmental monitoring and an alternative water supply. The Navajo Nation says the spill has shattered its longstanding reliance on the San Juan River, which it calls “the lifeblood of the Navajo people.”
The claim, sent to the EPA’s office of general counsel on Monday, follows a lawsuit filed by the Nation in August against the agency and several mining companies seeking recovery for response costs under federal and state laws.
That suit, which didn’t specify a damages amount, has since been consolidated with a lawsuit filed by the state of New Mexico and is in the early stages.
The Monday claim falls under the Federal Tort Claims Act and is a required first step when accusing the federal government of negligence, said Moez Kaba, an attorney for the Navajo Nation with California law firm Hueston Hennigan. If the government rejects the claim or fails to respond in six months, the damages request can be added to the earlier lawsuit.
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