DOINews: Environmental Damage Settlement Provides $194 Million for Wildlife Habitat Restoration

Last edited 09/29/2021

The Department of The Interior in cooperation with other Federal, State and Tribal co-trustees has settled claims for environmental damage settlement with ASARCO LLC, a North American mining conglomerate, which will provide about $194 million for the recovery of wildlife, habitat and other natural resources managed by Interior, state, and tribal governments at more than a dozen sites around the nation.

The $194 million payment is part of the largest environmental damage bankruptcy case in U.S. history, with parent corporation Grupo México providing a total of $1.79 billion to resolve the ASARCO's environmental liabilities from operations that contaminated land, water and wildlife resources on federal, state, tribal and private land.

The money from the environmental settlements in the bankruptcy will be used to pay for costs incurred by federal and state agencies at more than 80 sites contaminated by mining operations in 19 states, said federal officials.

“Through this historic settlement, the American public is compensated for the damage and loss of natural resources resulting from ASARCO's past mining, smelting and refining operations,” Secretary Salazar said. “Were it not for this agreement, these injured resources would either remain impaired for future generations or require taxpayer expenditures to achieve environmental restoration.”

Assistant Secretary for Fish Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland called the settlement the type of environmental enforcement action that ensures that those responsible for polluting the nation's landscapes and waterways are made to pay for their actions. “I want to commend the extraordinary level and amount of federal, state and tribal cooperation and coordination that accomplished this settlement,” Strickland said.

He also thanked representatives on the case teams that developed the claims, including Interior personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, other federal agencies and state and tribal governments for their professionalism and dedication. “The settlement demonstrates the ability of Interior's bureaus and offices to work cooperatively and productively on behalf of the public – and especially the taxpayers – to achieve major benefits for the environment.”

The case teams were supported by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey at the Columbia Environmental Research Center and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, the NRDAR Program Office and the Office of the Solicitor.

On behalf of co- trustees, Interior will receive the $194 million and deposit these funds into the Department's Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Fund. By law, and in consultation and collaboration with co-trustees, the money will be used to restore, replace, and/or acquire the equivalent of the injured natural resources managed by Interior and jointly managed with state and tribal governments.

The major regional sites in which Interior is involved and the total settled claim for damages are listed in the news release. Each site covered by the settlement is at a different point in the restoration planning process, which will determine when restoration work will take place on the ground.

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