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Press Release

Chairmen Question DOJ Treatment of EPA in Animas River Disaster

Decision raises concern of double standard in prosecutions of negligent discharge cases

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and House Oversight and Government Reform Interior Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting a briefing. Specifically, the chairmen request DOJ explain its decision not to pursue criminal charges related to EPA’s Gold King Mine disaster that were referred to DOJ by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG).

EPA OIG reportedly found evidence of criminal wrongdoing including violation of the Clean Water Act and providing false statements in a criminal investigation.

Key excerpts from the letter:

"OIG stated that it had found evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the EPA.  These included providing false statements in a criminal investigation and violation of the Clean Water Act.   The OIG told congressional staff  participants that it had referred these criminal findings to the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado.  However, the OIG went on to say that the U.S. Attorney, on the same day, declined to prosecute these charges.

"By not taking up the case, the Department of Justice looks like it is going easy on its colleagues in EPA.  Its lack of action on these charges give the appearance of hypocrisy, and seem to indicate that there is one set of rules for private citizens and another for the federal government. The EPA disaster deserves the same level of accountability to which private citizens are held.

"In order to assist the Committees, we ask that you provide the Committees with a briefing on the Department’s decision not to take up the OIG’s recommendation of criminal charges.  Furthermore, research conducted by Oversight Committee staff indicates a large gap between the number of criminal referrals from inspectors general across the federal government and the number of prosecutions taken up by the Department.  We request that the briefing take place no later than October 26, 2016."

View the letter HERE.