Hearing Wrap-Up: EPA’s Animas Spill

Published: Sep 17, 2015

Witnesses:

The Honorable Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Russell Begaye, President, Navajo Nation
Ryan Flynn, Secretary, New Mexico Environment Department
Mike Olguin, Treasurer, Southern Ute Indian Tribe

TAKEAWAYS:

  • EPA’s claim that the spill was the result of natural causes is false. Years of EPA mismanagement and incompetence led directly to the spill.
  • Despite anticipating the threat of a major blowout from as early as 2014, EPA did not consult with Fish and Wildlife as required by law, misjudged the imminent danger and were wholly unprepared for the disaster.
  • EPA is misleading the public in explaining its slow and insufficient notification of and response to the spill. The EPA waited two days before notifying the Navajo Nation, denied them access to the breach site and encouraged tribal Members to quickly arrange settlement with the federal government by widely distributing Standard Form 95.
  • EPA is operating under a double standard. Despite bringing criminal charges against private companies involved in environmental spills, no criminal charges are pending in connection to the Animas Spill. Further, no one has been fired or even disciplined at the EPA for their role in the disaster.
  • EPA claims the river has returned to its pre discharge conditions but others in the region dispute their assertion. There is much uncertainty surrounding the long term economic and environmental implications of the spill.

PURPOSE:

  • To examine the work of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the contractor retained at Gold King mine.
  • To examine EPA’s response to the discharge and cleanup efforts.
  • To examine the long term consequences and damages caused by the spill – and to discuss future issues with Gold King mine, and similar mines.

BACKGROUND:

  • On August 5, 2015, the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colorado discharged roughly three million gallons of toxic wastewater into a tributary of the Animas River after a contractor, retained and managed by the EPA to clean up the mine, caused an accidental structural breach of the mine.
  • Documents released by the EPA show that the EPA and the contractor knew of the risk of a breach over a year before the incident.

KEY VIDEOS:

Chairman Chaffetz: “You are not telling the truth.”

Congressman Hice: “If the EPA had done what they should have done, we would not have had this spill.”