Tester Reintroduces Bill to Cut Red Tape, Empower Local Government to Clean Up Abandoned Mines

Senator’s bipartisan Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act is widely supported by conservation groups, mining industry 

After years of work to cut needless red tape and support abandoned mine cleanups in Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today reintroduced his bipartisan Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act to make it easier for “Good Samaritans” such as state agencies, local governments, Tribes, nonprofits, and other groups, to clean up and improve water quality in and around abandoned hardrock mines. 

“Far too often the pollution left behind by irresponsible mining companies goes untreated, and Montana communities are forced to pay the price,” said Tester. “My bipartisan bill will cut bureaucratic red tape by empowering local stakeholders to begin cleanup efforts and ensure that polluters are held accountable so that Montanans can always tackle problems in their own backyard. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this broadly supported bipartisan bill across the finish line.”

Tester’s bipartisan bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set up a seven year Good Samaritan pilot program for abandoned hardrock mine remediation projects. Tester’s bill also ensures that any states, Tribes, or nonprofits that enter into agreements to clean up abandoned mine lands won’t expose themselves to excessive legal liability. Additionally, the bipartisan bill would ensure that Good Samaritans have the skills and resources necessary to comply with federal oversight. 

This pilot program is designed for lower risk projects that improve water and soil quality or otherwise protect human health. These Good Samaritans cannot be past or present owners of the mines or have any responsibility or liability for the mine waste they are looking to clean up.

Tester has been Montana’s leading advocate for toxic-exposed communities and last May, Tester secured $15 million through his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)for 11 Montana pollution cleanup projects. Tester’s IIJA also includes $11.3 billion in funding to clean up abandoned mine lands.  Tester also secured $1.232 billion through the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) government funding package for the Superfund account to clean up sites, including Butte, Libby, Columbia Falls, and the Smurfit-Stone site near Missoula. This was a $27 million increase over FY22 funding.

Tester has also kept the pressure on the Biden administration to take community feedback when working to address the lasting effects of exposure. In June of 2021, Tester pressed Administrator Regan on better asbestos regulation and the potential for an asbestos ban in light of the long-term health effects of the use of the toxic-substance in Libby.