Republican lawmakers are demanding the Department of Justice explain why criminal charges have not been leveled against an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee allegedly responsible for a massive mine spill in Colorado.
“By not taking up the case, the Department of Justice looks like it is going easy on its colleagues in EPA,” three lawmakers with the House Natural Resources Committee wrote Wednesday in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Republican Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah joined fellow GOP colleagues Chairman Jason Chaffetz, also from Utah, and oversight subcommittee chairwoman Cynthia Lummis, who represents Wyoming, to send out the letter Wednesday afternoon.
“Its lack of action on these charges give the appearance of hypocrisy,” the lawmakers claim, “and seem to indicate that there is one set of rules for private citizens and another for the federal government.”
The Colorado mine spill resulted in three million gallons of dangerous mine waste being dumped into Colorado’s Animus River, turning it yellow and poisoning the drinking water for thousands of residents across three states and the Navajo Nation. The spill also dumped more than 880,000 pounds of toxic elements — like lead and arsenic — into the water.
The EPA had tried to keep the identity of the person responsible for the spill under wraps until June, when The Daily Caller News Foundation reported that EPA worker Hays Griswold was in charge at the Gold King Mine during the spill.
Someone removed Griswold’s name from an “independent” review of the disaster, according to documents obtained by TheDCNF in June.
An EPA inspector announced Wednesday Bishop’s committee wrote the letter that it found evidence an unnamed employee violated the Clean Water Act. The Department of Justice will not pursue the case, a spokesman told reporters, and is instead referring the case to the EPA’s leaders.
The lawmakers added that the “EPA disaster deserves the same level of accountability to which private citizens are held.”
EPA’s failure to hold its employees accountable for last year’s leak has become a standard operating procedure.
Senior EPA officials in 2015, for instance, largely ignored complaints by 16 women, mostly employees, accusing one agency official of sexual harassment. The employee got promoted despite the complaints.
Bishop’s committee held a hearing in May showing that the EPA paid a registered sex offender to retire rather than terminating his employment.
The child molester was a registered sex offender and was fired in 2014 for violating his probation – but the EPA, as its custom, reinstated him under the Merit Systems Protection Board reinstated him. The employee was eventually paid $55,000 to resign in 2015.
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