Energy

Lawmakers Ruin EPA Chief’s Earth Day With Plans For A Subpoena

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

Republicans lawmakers are looking to put a huge damper on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy’s plans for 2016’s Earth Day by issuing a subpoena for her to appear at a field hearing in Arizona to answer for the agency-caused mine blowout.

Wyoming Sen. [crscore]John Barrasso[/crscore], who chairs the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said he’s working with committee members to get McCarthy to attend a field hearing in Phoenix April 22, which is Earth Day.

McCarthy may not be able to join Secretary of State John Kerry in signing the United Nations Paris agreement to cut carbon dioxide emissions, set to take place in New York City on Earth Day. It’s not yet clear if McCarthy will attend the field hearing.

The subpoena threat comes after EPA refused to send a representative to the field hearing, which will examine EPA’s treatment of Navajo Nation residents in the wake of the Gold King Mine blowout in Colorado that agency workers caused in August.

“It is my understanding that the EPA has decided not to send a representative to this field hearing,” Arizona Republican Sen. [crscore]John McCain[/crscore] said in a recent hearing, before suggesting McCarthy be subpoenaed.

“The EPA’s response is unacceptable,” McCain said. “It is a violation of our obligation to protect the interests of Native Americans and their tribes and EPA must be present at this hearing.”

In August, an EPA working at the Gold King Mine outside Silverton, Colo., and unleashed 880,000 pounds of toxic metals mixed in with 3 million gallons of mine wastewater. The spill sent an orange bloom down the Animas River and into the San Juan River, where it spread to Navajo lands.

Navajo tribesmen had their drinking and irrigation water shut off after the toxic plume reached portions of the San Juan River abutting their lands, and the tribe and federal officials have been extremely critical of the agency’s handling of the spill.

Navajo leaders initially promised to sue EPA over the agency handing out damage claims that allegedly forced tribal members to waive their rights to future damage claims. Navajo farmers also claimed EPA delivered them tainted water to replace well water now contaminated with mine waste.

“It caused hundreds, maybe thousands of farmers to lose their crops and have their crops affected last season,” Mihio Manus, spokesman for the Navajo Nation’s president, told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Ethan Barton in February.

“It affected the livelihood of these farmers,” Manus said. “A lot of farmers lost a lot of money.”

McCarthy recently told Congress the EPA had reimbursed Navajo Nation $158,000 for the mine spill, but to date the agency has not launched a criminal investigation into the spill or paid any penalties.

“Senator McCain, you are correct: The EPA has declined to send anyone to the field hearing,” Barrasso said in the hearing. “This is not a partisan issue, it is a Native American issue and I will work with you and others on this committee to issue a subpoena for Administrator Gina McCarthy to appear.”

If McCarthy attends the Earth Day field hearing, she won’t be able to attend the U.N. signing ceremony set to happen that day when world leaders are set to officially approve a global agreement to cur carbon dioxide emissions.

McCarthy has spent much of her energy crafting and promoting the EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan, which is the Obama administration’s signature global warming regulation. McCarthy herself has said the CPP was more about garnering global support for a U.N. treaty than it was about addressing global warming.

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