Remember that time when the EPA blew out the seals on the Gold King mine and polluted all of the water for hundreds of miles downsteam? Ah… good times, my friends. There was plenty of discussion in the media about the immediate effects in the surrounding area, but further down the river there was a significant impact on the people of the Navajo Nation and they’ve been trying to get some help with the fallout from the heavy metals which wound up in their drinking water. They recently managed to secure a meeting with some members of the Senate regarding what the EPA proposed to do about this but received little in the way of satisfaction. (CNS)
At a congressional field hearing in Phoenix, Ariz., on Friday, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the EPA has not fulfilled its promise to pay for damages done to Native American lands from the toxic spill of mine waste into waterways in Colorado, which eventually polluted water in that state, New Mexico, and Utah, and Navajo Nation land in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.
“EPA has not lived up to its word,” Begaye said in a video posted on the Arizona Republic website. “ It’s been empty promise after empty promise.”
“We’ve had numerous meetings where promises were made and none of it EPA has lived up to,” Begaye said.
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has been investigating these complaints on behalf of the Navajo Nation for some time now and they’ve apparently reached an impasse. This week two of the ranking members (Barrasso and McCain) sent a letter to the Attorney General requesting a criminal investigation into the conduct of the Environmental Protection Agency in this matter. (SCIA)
“[W]e believe that sufficient information exists to warrant an investigation by the Justice Department of whether EPA employees or contractors may have committed crimes in connection with the spill, including but not limited to criminal violations of federal environmental laws, criminal negligence and obstruction,” write Barrasso and McCain.
“[W]e ask that you review the circumstances surrounding the Gold King Mine spill to determine specifically whether evidence warrants the prosecution of any EPA manager, employee or contractor for the criminal violation of federal environmental law, criminal negligence, obstruction or any other crime… DOJ’s involvement is necessary to affirm that the government is willing to hold itself to the same level of accountability as it holds private companies whose negligence results in serious environmental damage.”
Senator McCain first called for the investigation at a field oversight hearing on “EPA’s Unacceptable Response to Indian Tribes” in Phoenix, Arizona. Chairman Barrasso agreed to hold the hearing at the request of Senator McCain.
This may prove to be an interesting test for Loretta Lynch. The Justice Department has shown little interest in going after any Friends of Hillary or appointees of Barack Obama in the past, and thus far doesn’t seem interested in holding the EPA accountable for the disaster in Flint, Michigan. Most of the previous incidents all have mitigating factors allowing for some random finger pointing if you’re of a mind to do that. But the Gold King mine spill is a horse of a different color, and there was nobody involved in it but the EPA and their supervised contractors on site. There is endless footage taken from helicopters and boats of the rivers running a highly unnatural shade of orange and the results of water testing up and down the river systems are everywhere. The Navajo people have a legitimate complaint and have brought it to the doorstep of our government.
How will our Attorney General respond? Will there be a vigorous investigation or will it be swept under the rug? Will there even be an investigation at all beyond the “internal investigation” done by the EPA? There is a test of character coming up and we’ll be waiting to see whether the Obama administration stands up for the duties required or circles the wagons. (He says, realizing that’s probably a horrible metaphor in this particular case…)