Senators Call For Criminal Probe Of EPA’s Gold King Mine Disaster

EPA Handout/Reuters, REUTERS/Gary Cameron

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman [crscore]John Barrasso[/crscore] and Sen. [crscore]John McCain[/crscore] asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch a criminal investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-caused Gold King Mine disaster.

The EPA spilled 880,000 pounds of dangerous metals like lead and arsenic into the Animas River while digging at Colorado’s Gold King Mine in August 2015, poisoning drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation. (RELATED: EPA’s Gold King Mine Blowout Was No Accident)

Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, and McCain, an Arizona Republican, pointed out the EPA’s responsibility for the spill and note the agency’s failure to conduct a water pressure test, which likely would have prevented the disaster.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation sought by the two senators would determine whether any EPA officials or contractors committed a crime related to the spill. (RELATED: Here’s Why EPA Could Face Criminal Charges For Gold King Mine Blowout)

“[W]e believe that sufficient information exists to warrant an investigation by the Justice Department of whether EPA employees or contractors may have committed crimes in connection with the spill, including but not limited to criminal violations of federal environmental laws, criminal negligence and obstruction,” the Republican senators wrote.

“DOJ’s involvement is necessary to affirm that the government is willing to hold itself to the same level of accountability as it holds private companies whose negligence results in serious environmental damage,” the letter continued.

An agency spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation that “after the accidental release, EPA took responsibility for the cleanup, and conducted an internal review of the events leading up to the Gold King Mine incident.” She also noted an ongoing EPA inspector general (IG) investigation.

The senators, however, addressed both the internal review and the IG’s work.

“EPA officials have already tried to obstruct the [IG’s] investigation,” the letter said. “For this reason, notwithstanding the OIG’s statutory independence from the agency, we—and more importantly—those communities adversely affected by the disaster can have no confidence that the agency can investigate itself.”

The EPA spokeswoman noted the agency also requested an independent review.

“Also, at EPA’s request, based upon the U.S. Department of lnterior’s (DOI) mining expertise, DOI conducted an independent technical review of the incident,” she said.

But McCain previously criticized the EPA for selecting DOI to conduct the review, given Interior’s numerous conflicts of interest and involvement with Gold King Mine outside the investigation.

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