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The Foidel Creek Mine in Routt County is one of Colorado’s most productive coal mines, churning out more than a quarter of all the coal mined in the state. But it’s also one of the state’s most dangerous mines, accounting for nearly a third of Colorado’s coal-mining injuries in 2009.
Just outside of Central City in Colorado's Gilpin County, the historic Perigo gold mine drains metal-laden water at an average of 70 gallons per minute into a small perennial stream known as Gamble Gulch. Below the mine for six miles, the gulch is virtually devoid of life, according to the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. A design for a proposed project has been completed, but Colorado won’t bid it out for construction because it worries that if it does, it open itself up, in perpetuity, to a lawsuit under the Clean Water Act.
In the last 15 years, Washington lawmakers have introduced no fewer than 10 pieces of so-called Good Samaritan legislation-- the majority of those laws introduced by Colorado legislators. The legislation is designed to provide legal protection for groups who take it upon themselves to clean up toxic waste. In Colorado, that means cleaning up acid mine drainage. Why has none of the legislation passed? Good Samaritan groups say the most stringent opponents include major environmental groups with Washington lobbyists.