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EPA May Have Influenced Gold King Mine Report’s Independence

A key report on the Gold King Mine disaster, which poisoned drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation, is now being questioned by congressional committee and subcommittee chairmen.

New evidence may “contradict” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA) Gina McCarthy’s “repeated assertions” to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) “that EPA had reviewed only a [Department of the Interior] press release and had no role in DOI’s independent review” of the Gold King Mine blowout, according to a Wednesday letter to McCarthy.

“Please clarify … that DOI did not have a conflict of interest, that its review would be independent and that EPA officials had no involvement in DOI’s review,” committee Chairman [crscore]Jim Inhofe[/crscore] and Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight Subcommittee Chairman M. Michael Rounds wrote.

The DOI report detailed that the EPA-caused Gold King Mine spill, which sent three million gallons of wastewater into Colorado’s Animas River, was preventable. The report stated, however, events at the site before and after the incident were beyond the investigation’s scope – even though such details were sought by the EPW committee.

The report describes coordination between the EPA and DOI’s Bureau of Reclamation, which raises “further questions about the apparent conflict of interest and lack of independence,” the Republican chairmen wrote.

The Republicans also noted that their committee obtained documents that showed “extensive coordination” between the two agencies for several years “concerning legal responsibility and options for cleaning up contamination from abandoned mine sites … including the Gold King Mine and the nearby Red and Bonita and Sunnyside mines, the closure of which may have contributed to conditions that led to the Gold King blowout.”

McCarthy told the committee that the EPA wasn’t involved in reviewing a draft of the Gold King Mine report.

“It now appears that EPA officials were in fact involved in reviewing and providing input to DOI related to its investigation,” Inhofe and Rounds wrote. “It appears a senior EPA official received a copy of the draft … on Aug. 18, 2015 and told a BOR official ‘it looks good to me, and I will share up my management chain.’”

The chairmen also requested communications between EPA, DOI and the Army Corps of Engineers, which reviewed the Gold King Mine report.

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