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New Mexico Official Cites EPA’s ‘Conflict Of Interest’ In Disaster Probe

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Ethan Barton Managing Editor
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials created a clear “conflict of interest” by leading the efforts to measure the impact of the agency-caused Gold King Mine disaster, New Mexico Environmental Director Ryan Flynn said in an email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“As the responsible party, there is a clear conflict of interest,” Flynn wrote in a Sept. 21, 2015 email obtained by TheDCNF through the Freedom of Information Act. “The state of New Mexico would never allow a party responsible for creating an environmental disaster to monitor itself.”

An EPA crew penetrated the Gold King Mine in one year ago Friday, which unleashed a three-million-gallon flood of toxic waste into drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation. (RELATED: EPA’s Gold King Mine Blowout Was No Accident)

Flynn’s email was a response to the EPA’s plan to monitor the impacts of the disaster it caused.

“The state of New Mexico does not believe it is appropriate for EPA to lead monitoring effort [sic] regarding the impacts of the Gold King Mine release,” Flynn wrote. “As we have indicated to EPA numerous times over the past few weeks, we believe the most productive path forward is for EPA to fund the long term monitoring plan the state is currently developing.”

An EPA spokeswoman told TheDCNF that “EPA awarded New Mexico a Clean Water Act grant of $465,000 to support the state’s long-term monitoring efforts. New Mexico also has $5.67 million available in unallocated federal funds that they can use for monitoring; in fact they have already used $108,000 for this purpose.”

The EPA recently boasted in a retrospective report on the disaster that it spent $29 million cleaning the spill and monitoring its impacts.

Flynn – who inexplicably announced that he will resign Aug. 12 – has been especially critical of EPA’s response to the disaster.

“From the very beginning, the EPA failed to hold itself accountable in the same way that it would a private business,” he said in other forums prior to the email.

Similarly, a House Committee on Natural Resources investigation concluded that the EPA likely violated at least two federal laws. A private party responsible for such a spill would almost certainly face lofty fines or even jail time, according to Paul Larkin, a former federal attorney who now works for the conservative Heritage Foundation.

New Mexico is suing the EPA and the contractor involved in the Gold King Mine spill, owners of other nearby mines, and Colorado.

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