EPA officials’ coverup of the Gold King Mine disaster appears to be working, thanks to multiple unanswered questions and the Department of Justice’s refusal to prosecute anybody.
“EPA has been masterful in leading the Obama Administration’s effort to quietly obfuscate the facts and run out the clock,” House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The pledges from [EPA Administrator Gina] McCarthy and [Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally] Jewell ‘to take accountability and uncover the full facts’ ring hollow,” the Utah Republican said. “The Obama Justice Department declined to follow through on clear instances of criminal conduct by EPA.”
The disaster occurred when an EPA crew penetrated Gold King Mine in August 2015. They unleashed a three million gallon flood of toxic waste into the Animas River, poisoning drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation.
The Justice Department refused to prosecute an EPA employee responsible for the spill after the environmental agency Inspector General (IG) presented findings of a year-long investigation. But the EPA’s actions following the disaster may raise even more questions than the spill itself, and epitomize the pattern the Obama administration follows regarding scandals.
“After vowing to uncover the truth more than a year ago, the Obama Administration actively worked to prevent any impartial accounting of what took place and why,” Bishop told TheDCNF. “They deliberately shrouded the facts and muzzled dissension from career experts who questioned the veracity and scope of their work.”
The answer to one crucial question in particular is still unclear: Why did On-Scene Coordinator Hays Griswold’s crew breach Gold King Mine? He was ordered not to touch the mine’s entrance. Evidence contradicts the EPA’s official response.
The agency has said the breach was unintentional, but internal emails show the EPA crew “was attempting to relieve hydrologic pressure,” TheDCNF previously reported. That answer also conflicts with the agency’s claim that it didn’t know Gold King Mine was pressurized.
This contradiction obscures the truth and creates a second, unanswered question: Why is the EPA providing an explanation that doesn’t match the evidence? This question appears to be at the heart of the EPA’s coverup.
“They produced conflicting iterations of events that raised more questions than they answered,” Bishop told TheDCNF. “Rather than to utilize levers of government to protect people, the Obama Administration abused these tools to protect themselves.”
Specifically, EPA was involved in two “independent” investigations.
First, the EPA selected DOI to review the incident – an agency highly involved at Gold King Mine and other nearby sites. TheDCNF has uncovered DOI’s numerous conflicts of interest and other involvement from the EPA in the review.
One peer reviewer was highly critical of the review, particularly of its failure to investigate negligence – as McCarthy promised it would – and had to threaten withholding his signature from the report before DOI agreed to include his criticism. He was also told DOI was ordered to “stay clear” of investigating the negligence.
Second, EPA officials may have “interfered” with the IG’s investigation, Bishop’s panel said. EPA supervisors Laura Williams and Dana Stalcup and spokeswoman Nancy Grantham simultaneously interviewed two primary subjects of the IG’s investigation.
It’s worth noting that the Gold King Mine disaster and the EPA’s subsequent actions follow a common pattern under the Obama administration: delay and deny.
The IG’s investigation took more than a year, during which time numerous comprehensive reports by various non-law enforcement entities containing significant details were released. Additionally, the watchdog’s non-criminal evaluation still isn’t complete.
“The EPA Office of Inspector General conducted a thorough investigation, looking at a unique set of facts, using the Attorney General’s Guidelines for [IGs] with Statutory Law Enforcement Authority,” IG spokeswoman Jennifer Kaplan told TheDCNF. “Following that process to ensure an accurate understanding of what transpired takes time.”
Obama’s Justice Department declined to prosecute the investigated employee 14 months after the Gold King Mine disaster.
Other scandals have followed the same pattern, including Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email address and private server and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups. Lengthy investigations revealed significant evidence of wrongdoing, but the Justice Department didn’t prosecute anyone over either incident.
The EPA did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.
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