Michigan should have done a lot more to make sure the Flint water crisis never happened, Governor Rick Snyder said Thursday during a congressional hearing, while the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintained the agency did nothing wrong.
“Let me be blunt,” Gov. Snyder told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform during his opening remarks. “This was a failure of government at all levels. Local, state, and federal officials – we all failed the families of Flint.”
EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, testifying along side Snyder on Thursday, was not as quick to admit her agency’s culpability in the mess, telling the congressional panel the EPA simply did not have the information necessary to fix the problem.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the agency tasked with studying Flint’s water, blocked the EPA from the process, McCarthy told the congressional panel.
“The MDEQ slow-walked all the things that needed to be done to find out how to fix the problem,” McCarthy noted. The EPA was “strong-armed” and “misled,” which kept the agency from effectively administering the Clean Water Act in Flint, she added.
“The law failed, administrator,” Chaffetz said, in reference to McCarthy’s defense. “You’re wrong. Why do we even need an EPA if the agency cannot properly regulate the laws they are tasked with enforcing?”
While Republicans grilled McCarthy, Democrats grilled Snyder.
“Off with the head of the head of the IRS,” Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly said about the Republican committee members criticisms of McCarthy. “Off with the head of the chief of the EPA. But Gov. Snyder, my Republican colleagues believe, should keep his head.”
Snyder interrupted the committee’s questioning of McCarthy, saying people need to look at all of the emails directed at the EPA about Flint’s lead-tainted water, and pointing to specific emails he said discredited McCarthy’s defense.
“Listen, I’ve accepted responsibility for my state’s officials not doing more to fix the problem,” he said. “I should have done more.” But to say that the EPA just didn’t get the information is not a valid excuse, Snyder added.
Snyder’s admission was not enough for Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, who spent the better part of his allotted speaking time raking Snyder over the coals for supposedly turning a blind eye to the problem.
“You were not in a medically induced coma for the past year, Cartwright said, referring to the lag time between when the governor found out about the issue and when he arrived in Flint. “There you are dripping with guilt, and doing your dead-level best to spread responsibility to everybody else,” he added.
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