Interior Secretary Refuses To Testify On EPA Toxic Mine Spill

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
Font Size:

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is refusing to testify before Congress about her department’s ongoing investigation of the massive toxic mine spill caused by EPA workers last month.

Despite an invitation Republican lawmakers to get Jewell to come before the committee Thursday to testify on the Interior’s investigation, the former CEO of REI has declined. Instead, Jewell’s staffers sent an unsigned statement to House lawmakers.

“Despite nearly every one of its agencies having jurisdiction over lands impacted by the spill and responsibilities to uphold for impacted communities, including tribes, Interior has been nearly invisible in the wake of the spill,” Wyoming Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an emailed statement.

The Interior Department has been tasked with releasing a technical report on the EPA-caused mine spill in August where agency contractors accidentally unleashed 3 million gallons of wastewater into Colorado’s Animas River.

But the department has largely been silent on its probe into the Gold King Mine spill. Interior told House lawmakers they “would be happy to provide the [lawmakers] with a briefing of that report after its release,” according to the statement to the House provided to TheDCNF by the department. Their response has only frustrated lawmakers.

“Both the EPA and the Department of the Interior must be held accountable, both today and as the recovery efforts continue,” Lummis said. “Right now, the public is being left in the dark. Refusing to appear before the committees and failing to even offer to send a representative on the department’s behalf is deeply concerning.”

The EPA-induced spill has attracted the ire of state officials and Republican lawmakers. Senate lawmakers held two hearings Wednesday where Republicans grilled EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy over the agency’s response to the spill.

In those hearings, McCarthy was repeatedly criticized for not reprimanding or firing any agency employees or contractors involved in the mine spill, which contaminated river water in three states with heavy metals, including lead and arsenic.

“Has anyone been fired for almost taking two days to notify the Navajo about the disaster?” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain asked McCarthy in a Wednesday hearing. “Has anyone been fired for the Navajo’s complaint that the emergency response was inadequate?”

“So this long after the spill, you’re still trying to determine who’s accountable for the spill?” North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven asked McCarthy.

McCarthy repeated that the agency was being held accountable, but wouldn’t go after individuals involved in the spill until after the Interior Department has completed its report on the spill. That report is set to come out at the end of October.

“Because of the soil and rock conditions, the access and drilling of a hole into the Adit from above would have been quite costly and require much more planning and multiple filed seasons to accomplish,” the EPA’s internal review says. “Although difficult and therefore expensive and technically challenging, this procedure may have been able to discover the pressurized conditions that turned out to cause the blowout.”

Follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact