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No Accountability One Year After the EPA-caused, DOI-approved Gold King Mine Disaster


WASHINGTON, D.C., August 5, 2016 -

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gold King Mine blowout near Silverton, Colorado. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) released the following statement:

A year later, the Obama Administration still won’t tell us the whole truth. Accounts of events from Interior and EPA have been inconsistent and artfully misleading. The EPA insists they had no plan to dig out the plug, but they did and without testing. There has been zero accountability on the part of the Administration, the only thing that has changed since last August is their story.

EPA's disaster dumped hundreds of tons of pollutants into a river that flows across four states - affecting farmers, treatment systems for safe drinking water and livelihoods, but no one has been punished. These communities, especially in Colorado, New Mexico and Navajo Nation, deserve better. They deserve answers.”

Background:

On August 5, 2015, an EPA crew triggered a mine blowout dumping three million gallons of acid mine drainage contaminated with metals into the Animas River. Contaminated water reached the San Juan River impacting Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Navajo Nation.

Following the incident, EPA pledge accountability and corrective action. The internal reviews issued by the Administration, EPA’s Internal Review and Addendum, and the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Technical Evaluation, offered shifting accounts of the events leading up to the spill. They contained numerous errors, omissions and inconsistencies, some of which are not attributable to error or incompetence alone.

During this time, the Committee held hearings, requested and reviewed thousands of pages of documents from the Administration, issued two subpoenas, and conducted its own investigative report documenting EPA's and DOI's inaccurate and conflicting accounting of the events. The Committee also sent a letter to the EPA Inspector General (IG) raising concerns that EPA officials engaged in activities that could hinder the IG’s investigation.

Committee Highlights:

VIDEO

On September 17, 2015, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, testified before a joint hearing, stating multiple times that the “independent” DOI review would provide authoritative answers as to how and why the spill occurred and whether or not negligence or criminal conduct were contributing factors.

Far from the "independent" report EPA’s McCarthy testified it would be, DOI’s review omitted reference to critical issues and facts, including any explanation for the EPA’s failure to conduct hydrostatic pressure testing before excavating the Gold King Mine adit.

The peer reviews of DOI’s report, including one authored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, strongly criticized the scope and methodology of DOI’s review, including the report’s omission of what "eventually caused the failure."

VIDEO

On December 9, 2015, testifying before the Committee, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner for Operations David Palumbo, discussed these concerns and others.

Since that time, it has been disclosed that the Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation of the incident. The EPA’s Office of the Inspector General is also conducting civil and criminal investigations.

Click here to read more about the Committee’s oversight efforts.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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