Jordan Candler / September 9, 2015

Congress to EPA: How ‘Bout Some Answers on the Mining Spill?

The agency’s obfuscation is increasing distrust and prompting congressional action.

It’s now been over a month since the Environmental Protection Agency breached a retaining wall at Colorado’s Gold King Mine that sent a deadly concoction of heavy metals into a nearby tributary. Despite conflicting evidence and limited public discourse, the EPA says the potential harmful effects have diminished, but some territories, such as the Navajo Nation, aren’t convinced. Nor is it about to trust the agency at fault to provide credible answers. The Associated Press reports, “On the Navajo Nation, where some irrigation systems remain shut down, President Russell Begaye said his administration was waiting to receive results from its own water and sediment tests rather than relying on the EPA. As a result, thousands of acres of crops have gone dry within the Navajo’s largest farming area, he said.” House lawmakers, meanwhile, launched hearings this week to get some sort of answers. House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith said, “We are still, a month later, waiting for a real assessment of the health care risk to those who live near the river or might consume water from the rivers. That is inexcusable.” Nevertheless, Democrats won’t let this crisis go to waste. In fact, Rep. Raul Grijalva, whose Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing later this month, said, “What happened in the Animas [River] has the potential to happen all over the West. Who has liability if it’s not the mining industry?” Grijalva and his colleagues want miners to bear the cost of cleanup efforts because, by their logic, they’re the ones liable for mining in the first place. But they weren’t the ones that breached a wall. You can thank EPA meddling for that — and without even bothering to develop a worst-case scenario plan to boot.

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