Gold King Mine Update Turns Into Long-Sought Gardner Townhall

Photo: Cory Gardner on Capitol Hill Aug 2017 (AP Photo)
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.

A townhall in Durango was billed as an update on the Gold King Mine spill Friday afternoon. But health care, not the environment, was top of mind for many attendees at the crowded public meeting.

And they directed their ire at Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

Town Hall with Gov. Hickenlooper, Senators Gardner & Bennet, and Rep. Scott Tipton.

"Why on earth did you vote for the Republican health care bill when the vast majority of constituents opposed it?" resident Steve Tidwell asked Gardner.

"Seven years ago when I ran for Congress, I said I would vote to repeal and replace Obamacare," Gardner replied.

Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet a Democrat, extended the forum for an hour to take more audience questions.

Protesters have dogged Gardner over his health care votes and lack of public events for months. Earlier Friday, his staff announced the senator will soon move his Denver office from a private building to a government facility — in part because it's become a target for protests.

Gardner held a telephone town hall earlier this week. He said he plans to do more in-person forums once the Senate's schedule is clear.

Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet stay late at town hall in Durango to take extra questions.

Gold King Cleanup Now A Priority

Gardner and other congressional delegation members toured the Gold King Mine with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt earlier in the day. Pruitt said clean up of the now Superfund site is a top priority.

The spill sent 3 million gallons of tainted wastewater into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, causing an estimated $420 million in economic damage.

Pruitt said he would consider paying for the damage and has sent letters to farmers, business owners, residents and others whose claims were rejected by the previous EPA administration.

After the tour, Rep. Scott Tipton touted the importance of passing Good Samaritan legislation which he introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"This is not something isolated to Gold King. This is an issue that's impacting a lot of our rivers, particularly in the 3rd Congressional District," Tipton said.