DOJ WON’T Charge EPA Employee Who Caused Gold King Mine Disaster


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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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The Department of Justice declined to prosecute an EPA employee despite overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado, “declined to prosecute the EPA employee” responsible for the Gold King Mine disaster, the watchdog announced Wednesday.

The EPA Inspector General (IG) launched a year-long investigation into whether an employee violated the Clean Water Act and made false statements over the Gold King Mine disaster. The IG did not disclose the employee’s name.

The watchdog’s investigation began after an EPA crew breached the Gold King Mine in August 2015, unleashing three million gallons of dangerous metals like lead, cadmium and arsenic into the Animas River. That flood effectively poisoned drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation.

The decision not to prosecute in the Gold King Mine case contrasts with evidence made public during the past year by multiple Daily Caller News Foundation investigations:

  • The EPA breached the mine intentionally, even though officials knew it was pressurized and despite agency claims to the contrary.
  • The now-retired chief EPA employee at Gold King Mine, Steven Way, was away on vacation when the disaster occurred. He left orders not to breach the mine, which his temporary replacement, Hays Griswold, violated.
  • The EPA played a significant role in a supposedly independent review of the disaster, which was conducted by its sister agency, the Department of the Interior (DOI). Critics charge the EPA’s role led to an apparent interagency cover up of how the EPA caused the disaster.
  • Numerous DOI agencies were involved at Gold King Mine and in other mines in the region, causing an inherent conflict of interest. A peer reviewer was highly critical of the resulting report and was told DOI had orders to “stay clear” of investigating negligence.
  • A House Committee on Natural Resources-led investigation also presented evidence that the Clean Water Act was likely violated.

To date, no one has been publicly held responsible or disciplined for the disaster. Private companies responsible for similar spills have faced civil or even criminal charges soon after such disasters. The EPA, however, remains unpunished.

The Justice Department has gained notoriety for multiple decisions to forgo prosecution, despite significant evidence, with the most glaring example being FBI Director James Comey’s decision not to recommend prosecution of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for using a personal email and a private server for official business.

The Justice Department hasn’t prosecuted any IRS officials over the illegal targeting of Tea Party and conservative non-profit applicants during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns, even though there was significant evidence of wrongdoing, a TheDCNF investigation showed.

The Justice Department has let numerous other employees go unpunished for lesser, but still significant misconduct. The Natural Resources Committee, for example, held a hearing this summer highlighting numerous DOI officials who weren’t held accountable. Justice Department officials declined the panel’s invitation to explain publicly why they were letting such employees go.

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