Ag Policy Blog

House Presses EPA on Mine Spill, WOTUS Ruling Expected

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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As if the politics of the Clean Water Act were not already toxic with the scheduled implementation of the controversial waters of the United States rule Friday, 28 states filing suit and an expected court ruling on a requested injunction to stop the rule, a House committee investigating the Gold King Mine spill in Colorado that turned the Animas River yellow is accusing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy of stonewalling the committee's efforts.

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee had asked EPA to turn over, by Aug. 24, documents and various communications regarding the work done in the mine. According to a statement from committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the agency has not complied with the request as of Tuesday afternoon.

"It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the EPA failed to meet the House science committee's reasonable deadline in turning over documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine spill," Smith said in a statement. "These documents are essential to the committee's ongoing investigation and our upcoming hearing on Sept. 9. But more importantly, this information matters to the many Americans directly affected in western states who are still waiting for answers from the EPA."

Smith was critical of the EPA and President Barack Obama, who has yet to visit the states affected by the environmental disaster that included the accidental release of some 3 million gallons heavy metals from the mine.

"Even in the face of self-imposed environmental disaster, this administration continues to prioritize its extreme agenda over the interests and well-being of Americans," Smith said. "EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is currently crusading on climate change action in Japan while President Obama, who has yet to visit the areas affected by the spill, is touring the U.S. to tout EPA's latest regulation that will do little to impact climate change and will only further burden Americans with higher electric bills. It is no wonder the majority of Americans feel Washington no longer works for them."

According to a news release from the committee Smith requested the communications and documents from EPA in an Aug. 10 letter, related to the spill Aug. 5.

"Among other things, the committee requested documents and materials relating to the work that caused the Aug. 5 spill, and potential risks that chemicals and toxins could pose to animals and humans," the news release said. "While the EPA has publicly released some documents requested by the committee, it has failed to turn over the majority of the requested documentation to date."

The committee has asked McCarthy and the president of the EPA contracting company working at the mine site, to testify at a hearing Sept. 9.

Also this week, the U.S. District Court for the Southeastern District of North Dakota is expected to issue a ruling on a request made by several states for the court to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the waters of the United States rule, slated to take effect Friday.

According to court documents in the case attorneys for both EPA and the states offered oral arguments Aug. 21 and the judge in the case took the case under advisement.

There are four things the court will consider in rendering a decision on a preliminary injunction.

That includes whether the implementation of the rule without an injunction is likely to result in irreparable harm to the petitioners; exactly what is the public interest in granting an injunction; the likelihood petitioners in the case will succeed at trial on the merits of their case; as well as the balance of harm to both parties in the case with or without an injunction being issued.

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Jay Mcginnis
8/31/2015 | 8:08 AM CDT
You are so right Don and the current Congress also likes to defund many agencies then blame the president.
Bonnie Dukowitz
8/30/2015 | 9:23 AM CDT
All do to the demands of the entire populace as like in food proction. Then point fingers at someone else.
Don Thompson
8/29/2015 | 7:01 AM CDT
How was this problem created by the EPA? This mine and hundreds of others operated by US citizens previously, and since abandoned, have created toxic waste for years with the EPA then charged with finding remedy. Private enterprises created the problem. The EPA, the organization formed by the remaining responsible US citizenry have to try and remedy this calamity not of our creation. The private contract hired by the EPA to work on this particular mine was responsible for the "spill". A problem this contractor had not created either. Our forefathers left countless environmental problems for future generations to solve. We will pass on several for others to solve. The EPA will be in the mix to solve the or prevent the environmental issues. The current rant against the EPA and all government is political and fueled by willing ignorance. Please blog responsibly.
8/27/2015 | 3:38 PM CDT
I really expected to see a response to this article from Jay but since this is a problem created by the EPA and he can't say anything about electric cars affecting this, my guess is he will be silent until it blows over.