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Congressman Neguse Introduces Federal Legislation to Ban Drilling Beneath Federal Superfund Sites

July 12, 2019
Press Release

Washington D.C. — Today, Congressman Joe Neguse, who represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, introduced legislation to ban oil, gas, and mineral drilling beneath Federally owned Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) sites. The On or Under Act would direct the federal government to acquire mineral rights beneath federal NPL Superfund sites, and prohibit their extraction or disturbance.

Across Colorado, there are currently 20 total Superfund sites on the National Priorities List. Among these sites are Rocky Flats near Boulder, the Marshall Landfill in Boulder, Central City in Clear Creek, and Eagle Mine in Minturn. While current federal law prohibits drilling on the surface of a superfund site, new technologies and the advent of directional drilling have recently provided a pathway for companies to extract oil and gas beneath them. Disturbance of these environmentally sensitive sites have the potential to be very hazardous to the health of surrounding communities and the environment.

“Superfund NPL sites across Colorado and across the country have been designated under Federal law to ensure proper cleanup and contamination removal,” said Congressman Neguse. “It is essential that we protect the health and safety of our residents by ensuring these Federal remedies to clean up Superfund NPL sites are preserved."

Last month, in June of 2019, leaders from nearly a dozen cities and counties near the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge passed a resolution expressing their opposition to future oil and gas drilling on or under the site. Earlier this year, an energy company proposed drilling up to 31 wells underneath the refuge, where plutonium triggers for the nation’s nuclear arsenal were manufactured for over 40 years. While the permit was eventually withdrawn, the prospect of future drilling disturbing the Superfund remedies beneath Rocky Flats remains a troubling concern with surrounding communities.

“In November 2018, Superior, Colorado residents were alarmed to learn that an extraction company was planning to use a small patch of land in our four square mile town to conduct fracking operations underneath Rocky Flats, a Superfund site just south of our town,” said Superior Mayor Clint Folsom.  “Fortunately those plans were withdrawn but we were disappointed to learn that our state and local government was essentially powerless to prevent this activity should it return in the future.  Federal legislation to acquire Superfund mineral rights and prevent extraction will protect the rights of mineral owners and preserve the health and safety of residents living in close proximity to these sites.”  

“We thank Congressman Neguse for his leadership on mineral withdrawal at Superfund sites. This issue is so critical in protecting public health and safety of Coloradans,” said Sara Loflin, LOGIC Executive Director. “Superfund sites have been designated as such because of the major environmental, health, and safety dangers they pose to the public. It is a simple matter of common sense that the minerals under them be withdrawn from leasing and development, and that the surface on Superfund sites be left undisturbed. Congressman Neguse's common sense leadership on this issue is an important step in protecting Colorado's public health, safety, and environment.”

“I have been involved in all aspects of Rocky Flats since 1996, and given what remains in the subsurface and the relatively active, young geologic features present, it’s clear that extraction beneath Rocky Flats is not a good idea,” said Boulder City Councilwoman Lisa Morzel. “As a community, we’ve expressed our opposition to oil and gas drilling under Rocky Flats and passed a resolution expressing these concerns, yet there is still a real threat of fracking in this area. Federal government acquisition and prohibition of extraction beneath Rocky Flats would go a long way to protect this area."

“With seemingly unfettered access to fossil fuels under our soil, superfund sites with critical environmental considerations are incredibly vulnerable to massive extraction procedures that have potential to do harm at alarming rates,” said Heidi Henkel, Founder of Broomfield Moms Active Community. “Colorado isn't new to this fight with many superfund sites of our own, like Rocky Flats, that we have fended off short term. However, we know that private companies are salivating at this access, so we urgently welcome the protection at the federal level when states have little control." 

This is the 17th bill Congressman Neguse has introduced since taking office.