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New Mexico v. EPA

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20021
Nos. 16-cv-465, (D.N.M., 02/12/2018) (Armijo, J.)

A district court held that a government contractor may be liable under CERCLA in connection with the Gold King mine spill in Colorado. In 2016, the contractor caused a breach that released more than 3 million gallons of acid mine drainage and 880,000 pounds of heavy metals into the Animas River watershed, eventually reaching the San Juan River and causing environmental and economic damage. The state of New Mexico brought a contribution claim under CERCLA against the contractor for its part in the breach. The contractor claimed that it did not fit the criteria as an "owner or operator" under CERCLA. The court disagreed, holding that the contractor's activities in the mine were enough to support CERCLA liability.