The federal government settled one of the largest contamination cleanup lawsuits in history Thursday. For many years Anadarko Petroleum tried to pass along billions of dollars in cleanup obligations to its subsidiaries.
The settlement requires Anadarko, Kerr McGee and its other subsidiaries to pay more than $5 billion to resolve fraudulent claims. A billion of that will go toward cleaning up about 50 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. Another billion will help clean up chemical manufacturing contamination in Lake Mead.
Environmental Protection Agency officials said the energy company tried to evade responsibility and leave taxpayers with the cleanup bill.
“This is really about the polluter paying,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “If you cause a problem of that magnitude eventually it will catch up with you and your successor will have to pay for it.”
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly says uranium mining has left a legacy of disease, death and hardship.
“I go meet with these people,” Shelly said. “You see it in their eyes they talk about it. It’s painful. It’s painful when you talk to these families and what they’re going through.”
Shelly said while this settlement will help a great deal, it will only clean up 10 percent of the mines that have been abandoned for more than three decades.