Supreme Court Rejects Gold King Lawsuit
The US Supreme Court announced late last month that it was denying a petition filed by the state of New Mexico against the state of Colorado over the Gold King Mine Spill. The spill, which happened August 2015, occurred in southwest Colorado when an Environmental Protection Agency crew and contractors from Environmental Restoration LLC accidentally released three million gallons of toxic sludge while attempting to drain ponded water near the entrance of the mine. The spill polluted the Animas River, which flows into the San Juan River. The petition claimed that Colorado was directly responsible for the conditions leading to the spill and “negligently, recklessly and willfully authorized and allowed the discharge of toxic mine waste directly into the Animas River.” It suggests that the state is in violation of provisions set forth by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and asked that the Supreme Court should hold Colorado liable for all costs incurred by New Mexico because of the spill. The court did not explain why it chose to deny the lawsuit. A spokesman for New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement that the denial “only limited the venue in which the state of Colorado can be sued for the harm done to New Mexico children, families and businesses.” The Supreme Court Justices said that New Mexico could pursue the lawsuit in a lower court. According to the EPA, over 200 abandoned mines in Colorado leak over a million gallons of wastewater a day altogether.
Controversy Causes Navajo Housing Official to Resign
An investigation into the Navajo Housing Authority published last year by the Arizona Republic found that despite hundreds of millions of US tax dollars given to the Navajo Nation since 1998 for building homes, few have actually been completed. Last month, US Sen. John McCain of Arizona initiated another investigation into how the housing authority was spending federal grants and found numerous cases of mismanagement of funds. According to the report, 15 percent of the agency's annual allocation under the grant program is spent on planning and administration alone. Concerns over the misuse of income generated from rental properties also appeared in the report, which recommended that the Navajo Housing Authority and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development provide annual performance reports that include data on the number of houses built and which ones are rental units. It also recommended reducing federal allocations to the tribe for new homes, increasing site visits by federal inspectors and “overhauling NHA’s leadership and improving the NHA’s oversight structure.” No evidence of fraud or other criminal conduct was found. In response to the reports,the board overseeing the Navajo Housing Authority launched a four-week review into the organizations financial records and its chief executive, Aneva Yazzie. Last week, the board announced that Yazzie had resigned from her position. Navajo officials estimate that 50,000 units need to be built to meet the tribe's current housing needs.