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EPA Boss Ignores Navajo Pleas For Help, Makes Speeches Instead

EPA Handout/Reuters, REUTERS/Gary Cameron

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Ethan Barton Managing Editor
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy is skipping a Senate hearing on how her agency polluted the Navajo Nation’s drinking water and is instead staying in Washington for events mostly unrelated to the environment on Earth Day 2016.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is convening a hearing in Phoenix Friday to address Navajo criticism of how the EPA responded after the Gold King Mine incident — where the agency spilled 880,000 pounds of toxic metals, including arsenic and lead, into the Animas River in August 2015.

But McCarthy won’t be there.

“On Earth Day, of all days, the head of the EPA owes it to the people who live along the Animas River to be at our hearing,” committee Chairman [crscore]John Barrasso[/crscore] told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“The way the EPA has responded to the concerns of the tribes affected by this spill is unacceptable,” the Wyoming Republican said. “I would think the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency would want to hear their concerns directly.”

Arizona Republican Sen. [crscore]John McCain[/crscore], also on the committee, added:

The EPA caused a massive environmental disaster in the Animas and San Juan rivers that devastated the livelihood of hundreds of Navajo farmers.  I am disappointed but not surprised that EPA Administrator McCarthy will not attend this important field hearing. Demonstrating her accountability to Indian tribes would be a respectable gesture on Earth Day, but Administrator McCarthy appears to have other plans.

Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus will attend the hearing in McCarthy’s place.

“She’ll be visiting the DC Central Kitchen … speaking at the African American Mayors Association’s annual conference … and talking to the National Hispanic Medical Association’s annual conference on the need to protect public health from the adverse health effects of climate change,” agency spokeswoman Melissa Harrison told TheDCNF.

McCarthy claimed she wasn’t asked to appear at the hearing. The committee, however, issued a subpoena compelling either her or Stanislaus to appear after the EPA initially only provided written testimony. (RELATED: Lawmakers Ruin EPA Chief’s Earth Day With Plans For A Subpoena)

McCarthy previously refused to sit with tribal leaders at a September House Committee on Natural Resources hearing regarding the spill. (RELATED: EPA Chief Refused To Sit With Tribal Officials In House Hearing)

“I understand Administrator McCarthy agreed to come only if she appeared first and on her own panel — refusing to sit alongside representatives of states and tribes that traveled across the country to discuss the disaster her agency unleashed in their backyard,” committee Chairman [crscore]Rob Bishop[/crscore], a Utah Republican, said during the hearing.

McCarthy testified at another hearing that day “and simply needed accommodations for scheduling purposes,” Harrison told TheDCNF.

Navajo agriculture was decimated by the Gold King Mine disaster, and suicides spiked soon after, TheDCNF previously reported.

The EPA recently announced a $157,000 agreement with the Navajo Nation in addition to more than $1.1 million the agency already spent following the spill, Harrison told TheDNCF.

The EPA’s support for the Navajo Nation is minuscule next to the $80 million President Barack Obama dedicated for the government-caused water crisis in Flint, Mich. (RELATED: Tale of Two Rivers Part 2: EPA Criminally Investigates Flint, Not Gold King Mine)

Harrison also touted the EPA’s plan to monitor water quality in rivers affected by the Gold King Mine spill and the $2 million made available to launch the effort. The agency, however, doesn’t have a plan to protect humans if officials measure dangerous contaminate levels, and there is already a heavy threat to the human food chain, TheDCNF previously reported. (RELATED: Feds Say River They Polluted Is Safe, But Won’t Test Drinking Water)

The EPA recently proposed to designate Gold King and 47 other nearby mines as a Superfund site, a designation that is reserved for the most seriously polluted locations that are also dangerous to public health. The agency can’t estimate how long clean up will take, but a DCNF investigation found it could take years or even decades.

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