April 19, 2016

Barrasso Questions EPA Administrator on Gold King Mine Spill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA), questioned Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy about the EPA’s unacceptable response to the Gold King Mine spill.
McCarthy was testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee regarding the EPA’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2017.
On Friday, April 22 at 10:30 AM MST, the SCIA will hold a field oversight hearing on “Examining the EPA’s Unacceptable Response to Indian Tribes.” The hearing will take place in Phoenix, Ariz., at the Phoenix City Hall. The hearing will provide an opportunity for committee members to demand answers from the EPA regarding the impact of the Gold King Mine disaster on Indian Country and other environmental issues in the region. Committee members will also receive testimony from tribal leaders concerning the EPA’s responses to issues affecting their communities.
On April 13, Senators Barrasso and Jon Tester (D-MT), chairman and vice chairman of the SCIA, authorized issuing a subpoena to McCarthy or Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus, to testify at the field hearing. The invitation for Stanislaus to testify at the field hearing was originally sent on March 28, but the EPA declined to send him or any other witness.
Click here for video of Sen. Barrasso questioning EPA Admin. McCarthy
On EPA’s Unacceptable Response to Gold King Mine Spill:
“There was an April 7th Wall Street Journal story ‘Toxic Spill Fears Haunt Southwest.’ This has to do with the spill about six months ago, the EPA crew accidentally caused, where you unleashed waste at a gold mine, the spring snowmelt as it says, threatens to stir up pollutants.
“So the people in the area are concerned that as the snow melts and comes down. The article talks about a 46 year old oil field worker about the contamination.
“It says the ‘EPA hasn’t returned to conduct more tests, and now Mr. Dils and others are worried that lead and other toxic materials that settled in the river will be stirred up’ and just to remind folks, this is the one you’ve seen the picture of the orange colored river, three million gallons of toxic material that poured into that river.
“So he said they’re worried that these toxic chemicals will be stirred up, contaminate the river again, as the Animas swells with spring snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains.
“So he says, ‘I’m nervous about the long-term effects,’ he says. ‘It will be a matter of testing our well continuously, but we don’t have money for that.’
“So in your oral testimony before the Indian Affairs committee, specifically related to that toxic spill, you stated that the EPA water results – in your words – ‘indicated that water and sediment have returned to pre-event conditions.’
“This gives, I believe, an incomplete picture of the long term impacts of this EPA-caused environmental disaster.
“People in the area are referring to the EPA and they’re saying EPA stands for the Environmental Polluting Agency, the Environmental Poisoning Agency.
“As Senator Boxer has just said, look at the faces of those who were poisoned. This is murder. This is Barbara Boxer’s quote about what happens when people are poisoned. She a little earlier said, ‘this is murder.’ And that’s the way people in the area feel about what has happened.
“Communities want to know if their families will be safe as a result of the disaster that the EPA has caused, and you said will take responsibility for.
“They need money for testing, and what EPA has offered in terms of technical support and long-term monitoring isn’t nearly enough.
“So when the Indian tribes impacted wanted a follow-up hearing to examine these issues, specifically in that location, at first the EPA refused to even send a witness to testify in person. The hearing’s going to be this Friday, Earth Day.
“Instead, the EPA offered only written testimony.
“As a result, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee has had to issue a subpoena – something that the Indian Affairs committee haven’t has to do since the Jack Abramoff scandal.
“That puts you and the EPA in a very exclusive club. And it shouldn’t have happened. This is a bipartisan subpoena. 
“We’re holding this field hearing to do oversight into this catastrophe that the EPA has caused.
“So the Indian Affairs Committee, both Democrat and Republican Senators, have now given you or EPA Assistant Administrator Stanislaus, an opportunity to testify at the field hearing Friday in person.
“So my question is, this Friday, are you planning to go to New York for the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, stay here, or will you take this opportunity to face the people – the Navajo Nation and other tribes whose communities were poisoned, and commit to them, as well as all the affected communities of this spill, the people who were poisoned, that you will provide them with the testing and the funding they actually need to assure that their families will be safe?
Follow Up:
“So you have been subpoenaed as a result of the EPA’s decision to send no one, so we named you and Stanislaus—either or—so my question is, does the buck stop with you or with Mr. Stanislaus?”