"Soil remediation costs millions and millions of dollars," said Cederstav. "What they are not mentioning is that the reason [the Peruvian government hasn't] done that is because it makes no economic and environmental sense to do it as long as the smelter keeps contaminating."
In a statement to ABC News, Renco Group Andrew Shea spokesman called such reasoning "meritless and misguided," stating that "Peruvian officials made a commitment to remediate the soils of La Oroya. This remains their obligation; the work should have been completed years ago."
Cederstav says that Renco's recent statements also downplay the company's delay in implementing the key component to reducing the contamination at the La Oroya site -- a sulphuric acid plant that would remove heavy metals from the smelter's exhaust stream.
Shea stated that the company "has not delayed the construction of a sulphuric acid plant; it is the last project to be completed, and Renco has submitted a proposal that would complete its construction within the next twenty months." A company press release from 2007 shows that Doe Run Peru made a similar pronouncement in the past when it announced the work on the plant would be completed by September 2008.
CLICK HERE to read Doe Run Peru's 2007 press release.
In response to the letter from Payne, Treasury Assistant Secretary Marisa Lago assured the congressman on February 15 that "our embassy has been in touch with the Government of Peru with respect to this case, emphasizing that we expect both parties to make a good faith effort to work to resolve the pending financial and environmental issues." In a very similar response to Bachus, Lago said the embassy had emphasized to the Peruvian government that "we expect it to make a good faith effort to work with [Doe Run Peru] to resolve the pending financial and environmental issues."
A Bachus spokesman confirmed that the congressman's office had been contacted by "representatives from Renco" and said that Bachus only asked Geithner to give the company "due consideration." One of Renco's auto supply companies, Inteva Products, operates facilities near Bachus' district in Alabama.
A spokeswoman for Payne did not respond to requests for comment. It is unclear whether either congressman was aware of the complexities of the La Oroya dispute or Renco Group's environmental track record before writing the letters. The Sunlight Foundation's Allison, however, questioned who the lawmakers were serving by going to bat for Renco.
"What kind of constituency is this? It looks like you have members of Congress intervening on an issue that doesn't have a whole lot to do with their districts," said Allison.
Renco Group spokesman Shea said that the company was forced to turn to officials in Washington after Peruvian officials refused to meet with Doe Run Peru representatives.
"Renco has no choice but to explore every communication channel available to enlighten Peruvian officials of their contractual obligations to Doe Run Peru and the people of La Oroya. Further, as Peru's actions toward Doe Run Peru violate Peru's trade treaty with the United States, it is essential the U.S. government be made aware of this situation and engage in appropriate discussions with Peruvian officials on the matter," said Shea in a statement.