It has been a year since three million gallons of contaminated water were released into Cement Creek and the Animas River after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breached the Gold King Mine adit. I shared Coloradans’ concerns about the EPA’s lack of urgency immediately following the spill and confusion over why the agency was performing the remediation without adequate engineering expertise on site when the accident occurred.
In the days following the spill, Colorado U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and I pressed the EPA to quickly undertake the emergency response, water quality testing, and clean-up that was necessary to keep families in the surrounding communities safe from the contaminated water and sediment. We also urged the agency to take full responsibility for the accident and appropriately compensate the affected communities.
A year after the spill, I am still alarmed by the lack of accountability we have seen from the EPA. I recognize that the agency has made some progress, but we will continue to hold them to their word that they will take full responsibility for the spill, which includes ensuring clean drinking water and reimbursements for all affected communities.
Following the blowout, the EPA allocated a mere $2 million in grant funding for fiscal year 2016 to support the water quality monitoring efforts of the states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Navajo Nation, and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. During a March 2016 hearing, I had the opportunity to work with a colleague on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to ask EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy how much money the agency would dedicate to various activities related to the Gold King Mine blowout for fiscal year 2017. Administrator McCarthy said that the agency will consider the results of state and tribal water monitoring, along with its own monitoring efforts over the past year, to determine if supplemental funding for water quality monitoring is appropriate in fiscal year 2017.
Additionally, I asked Administrator McCarthy how much of the EPA’s budget would be dedicated to maintaining the emergency water treatment plant that was installed at Gladstone following the blowout. The agency said that the system has an annual operating cost of $1,000,000 and will remain in place as the EPA’s work at the spill site resumes over the summer. Prior to receiving the EPA’s response to this question, I worked to add language to the fiscal year 2017 Interior and Environment funding bill that directs the EPA to continue to operate the water treatment plant at Gladstone until there is a long-term water treatment and cleanup plan in place.
The Gold King Mine and others in the surrounding area now fall within the proposed Superfund site designation named the Bonita Peak Mining District. The towns of Silverton and Durango, San Juan and La Plata Counties, and the State of Colorado have formally requested the EPA proceed with the proposed addition of the mining district to the National Priorities List, which includes hazardous waste sites in the U.S. that are eligible for long-term remedial cleanup.
I understand the state and local desire for federal assistance with cleanup of the spill site, but I have also urged the EPA to implement Superfund in a way that works for the affected communities and the State of Colorado. The EPA must continue to collaborate with local, tribal, and state officials and work to protect the local economy, maximizing local employment opportunities where possible and providing adequate funding from its nearly $8 billion dollar annual budget to ensure that the cleanup is not delayed.
What we have learned from the Gold King Mine accident is that it is clear that we need a better approach when it comes to cleaning up contamination in old abandoned mine sites in Colorado and the West. This is an issue I have been focused on for years in Congress, as I have continuously worked toward passing Good Samaritan legislation. The idea at the heart of the Good Samaritan legislation is to remove existing hurdles that discourage Good Samaritan groups that have the technical expertise to conduct successful remediation – including environmental and conservation groups, and mining companies – from cleaning up abandoned mines and providing our communities and environment with a valuable service.
Past versions of Good Samaritan legislation have stalled in Congress for various reasons, but I am confident in the progress that U.S. Sens. Bennet and Gardner and I have made towards finalizing legislation that has a good chance of passing into law. I have always contended that in order for Good Samaritan legislation to be effective, it must include strong permitting requirements to ensure that would-be Good Samaritans have the expertise and financial ability needed to responsibly take on these complex cleanup projects. But I also firmly believe that Good Samaritan groups must be protected from civilian-led civil lawsuits. Should a Good Samaritan group violate the conditions of its permit, it should be held accountable by the permitting authority.
One year after the Gold King Mine spill, we’re still working to make wronged parties whole and finalize a long-term solution to abandoned mine cleanup, but we’ve also witnessed the resilience and commitment of Coloradans. The resilience in the face of unimaginable, unexpected challenges and a commitment to restoring the health and beauty of our communities are characteristics that make me so proud to serve the people of the Third Congressional District of Colorado.Read More
It is hard to find an issue that impacts every community in the United States, but the opioid abuse epidemic does. This is why Congress began work in January to develop comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to ensure the federal government is supporting the steps states and local communities are taking to curb prescription drug and heroin abuse. It is also why I am hosting roundtable discussions on the opioid abuse epidemic with community, health care, and law enforcement leaders across the Third Congressional District.
These roundtable discussions kicked-off in Alamosa and Pueblo and continued in Grand Junction and Craig. In Alamosa, we received valuable feedback about the importance of targeted, age-appropriate education and community support in drug abuse prevention and treatment programs. In Pueblo, the conversation focused on some of the federal policies that have created challenges for health care providers when it comes to prescribing non-opioid painkillers for their patients’ pain management needs.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the total number of prescriptions written for opioid pain relievers in the U.S. skyrocketed from 76 million in 1991 to almost 207 million in 2013, and overdose deaths due to prescription opioid pain relievers tripled from 1994 to 2014. During my roundtable discussion in Pueblo, health care providers discussed some of the reasons why prescriptions for opioid painkillers have increased and the barriers to providing patients with non-opioid and over-the-counter pain relievers.
In 2006, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), which is a national, standardized survey of patients’ perspectives on the care they receive in hospitals. The survey asks discharged patients 27 questions about their hospital stay, and one section of the survey focuses on how well the hospital managed the patients’ pain. A hospital’s score on the HCAHP has an impact on the level of its payments from CMS.
Hospital workers and health care providers around the table in Pueblo told me about the impact the HCAHP has had on their approach to pain management. At a time when hospitals are already strapped for resources, especially hospitals in rural areas, the system incentivizes the prescribing of opioids by tying reimbursements to the score on the pain management section of the HCAHP.
A pharmacologist who took part in the Pueblo discussion suggested that it may be time for health care systems to reevaluate how they measure pain. He said that now, the measurement is based on a 1-10 scale, with 1 representing no pain and 10 representing unbearable pain. But what if the measurement was based on results? For example, can you sit up on your own? Can you put weight on your foot?
The House and Senate recently finalized and submitted to the president bipartisan legislation that addresses several aspects of the opioid abuse epidemic, including current pain management practices.
The bill, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), was finalized after the House passed its package of 18 bills to fight the opioid epidemic and the Senate passed its own legislative package. The CARA requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to convene a task force made up of federal agencies and non-governmental stakeholders that will identify the best practices for pain management that have been developed or adopted by federal agencies and determine if there are gaps or inconsistencies.
Also, in response to the same concerns health care providers shared with me in Pueblo, the HHS Secretary recently announced that the department is proposing that the pain management questions on the HCAHPS be removed from the hospital payment scoring calculations to ensure there is no perceived financial pressure to overprescribe opioid painkillers. The pain management questions would still remain on the HCAHPS, but they would not impact the level of payment hospitals receive from CMS. The change was proposed on July 14, 2016, and the public will have until Sept. 6, 2016 to provide feedback to HHS. H.R. 4499, a bill introduced by Representative Alex Mooney, would codify this regulatory change in to law.
The proposed change to the HCAHP is a perfect example of why it is so important for public officials to talk to the people who are on the ground and involved with the opioid abuse epidemic every day. The federal government needs to hear the type of feedback that I’m receiving at these roundtable discussions in order to make the policy changes that will allow communities to more effectively fight opioid abuse.
I’m committed to bringing your feedback to Congress, making your voice heard and working for policies to fight this devastating epidemic.Read More
Led by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03) and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), the Colorado Congressional Delegation has introduced legislation to name the new U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Pueblo, CO, after Private First Class (PFC) James Dunn, a native of Colorado and Navy Cross recipient.
In 2013, the Colorado Congressional delegation announced the formation of an eight person committee that would recommend a name for the outpatient clinic. The committee included representatives from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces who served in conflicts ranging from WWII to Afghanistan.
PFC James Dunn was assigned to the 3rd Battalion 6th Marines during WWII, and he saw combat action during the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. When his commander was severely injured after coming under heavy enemy fire during a patrol, Dunn took command of his platoon and led his fellow Marines to safe cover. Dunn was ordered to withdraw without the wounded, but he made a quick judgement call to return to his wounded comrades and help evacuate them under heavy incoming machine gun and mortar fire.
“PFC Dunn’s actions on Guadalcanal Island saved the lives of many men. Dunn set aside self-interest and ultimately gave a second chance to the Marines pinned down that day. The PFC James Dunn VA Clinic will forever represent the heroic actions of James Dunn, and doctors, nurses and all who serve in the clinic will continue his spirit of selfless service,” said Tipton. “James Dunn left a steady job at the steel mill to serve his country as a Marine, and he returned to Pueblo after his deployment. His devotion to serving his community and country is a perfect reflection of the unique character that so many citizens of Pueblo possess, and I am proud that the VA clinic will bear his name.”
“PFC James Dunn represented the very best this country has to offer,” said Gardner. “During World War II, PFC Dunn disregarded his own safety in order to save his fellow Marines. He proved that one man’s heroic actions can save countless lives, and his selflessness in the heat of battle still serves as an inspiration to Americans today. I’m proud to join my Colorado colleagues and introduce legislation, that if enacted and signed into law, will ensure future generations will look to the Pueblo VA clinic that bears his name and be inspired by his incredible story.”
Congressional guidelines for naming a VA clinic require that the person the clinic is named after must be deceased and one of the following:
The naming bill, H.R. 5901 in the House and S. 3283 in the Senate, has the support of the entire Colorado Congressional delegation. Tipton and Gardner are hopeful that the bill will soon pass through both chambers of Congress.Read More
218 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Congressman Scott Tipton was raised in Cortez, Colorado. He graduated from Ft. Lewis College in Durango, where he studied Political Science and became the first person in his family to earn a college degree. After college, he returned home to Cortez and co-founded Mesa Verde Indian Pottery with his brother Joe. It was through his business that Scott met his wife, Jean, who is a former school teacher. The Tipton’s have two daughters, Liesl and Elizabeth, and two sons-in-law, Chris and Jace.
After a lifetime running his small business, Scott was elected as a Republican to the Colorado House of Representatives for the 58th District in November of 2008. During his time at the state House, he worked to ensure quality water for the people of Colorado and to improve the air quality of Southwest Colorado. He also sponsored legislation to protect children from the worst criminal offenders by mandating harsher penalties for child sex-offenders and allowing law enforcement to collect DNA evidence from suspects through Jessica’s Law and Katie’s Law.
Scott was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 and again in 2012 for a second term.
In the 112th Congress, Scott pushed hard to advance a federal version of Katie’s Law to encourage additional states to implement minimum DNA collection standards and enhanced collection processes for felons in order to strengthen law enforcement’s ability to prevent violent crimes, and protect women and children. That effort became a reality when the President signed Katie’s Law on January 3, 2013.
Using his positions on the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Small Business Committees, Scott has is fighting for the issues that most directly impact Coloradans, many of which involve our state’s extensive open spaces and natural resources. In his first term, Scott introduced legislation to encourage healthy forest management and prevent wildfire, as well as passed a bill in the House with bipartisan support to advance the development of clean, renewable hydropower. He is also leading the charge in Congress to stop a federal grab of privately-held water rights, standing up for farmers and ranchers, the ski industry, and all who rely on their water rights to survive.
Scott is champion of advancing an all-of-the-above energy solution that balances common sense conservation with responsible development. He passed the Planning for American Energy Act through the House (as a title under the American Domestic Energy and Jobs Act) to put requirements into place to develop wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, oil, natural gas, coal, oil shale and minerals, based on the needs of the American people.
Scott has used his experience as a small businessman to inform his work as a Subcommittee Chairman on the Small Business Committee. Here he has worked to protect farmers and ranchers from regulatory overreach, as well as push for expanded trade opportunities for Colorado products. Scott is a co-founder of the Congressional Small Business Caucus, a bipartisan caucus committed to open dialogue on the issues that most impact small businesses. Members of the Congressional Small Business Caucus are dedicated to advancing efforts to foster the economic certainty needed for small businesses and entrepreneurs to succeed and create jobs.
In the 113th Congress, Scott continues to represent the many interests of one of the most diverse and geographically vast districts in the nation. He will fight to bring Colorado common sense to Washington—focusing on reforming regulation, protecting Colorado’s natural environment, encouraging responsible all-of-the-above energy development, reducing government spending, and removing hurdles so that small businesses can do what they do best—create jobs.
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It was great to be in the San Luis Valley yesterday for the MillerCoors Barley Days and a chance to ride on the San Luis Central Railroad!
It was an honor to be named a Defender of Freedom by the LULAC Young Emerging College Leaders this week. I'm proud to serve our veterans in the
ICYMI: Colorado is among 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates, but it is clear that we must protect energy jobs with an all-of-the-above
Have you been to Navajo State Park? If not, check it out during #ParksandRecreationMonth! The park draws more than 300,000 visitors each year
If you're on Instagram, follow me at @repscotttipton for more updates on my work in Colorado and DC!