Investigative Group

Utah’s Lawsuit Declares EPA Intentionally Breached Gold King Mine

REUTERS/Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department/Handout

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
Font Size:

A lawsuit the state of Utah filed in federal court disputes a government watchdog’s dubious findings that cleared the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of wrongdoing in a massive environmental disaster.

Miscommunication caused an EPA-led crew to breach Colorado’s Gold King Mine intentionally in August 2015 against standing agency orders, the lawsuit alleged. The suit was filed late Monday evening in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. The breach unleashed a 3 million gallon flood of toxic waste into drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation.

“Members of the EPA on-site team have given conflicting reports regarding their work,” the lawsuit said. “Some believed the objective was to excavate the [mine entrance] to create an opening. Others believed the objective was to use a backhoe excavator to scratch the earth around the [opening].”

“On information and belief, this conflict was caused by miscommunication among the EPA on-site team,” the suit continued. “The intentional actions of the EPA and contractor defendants caused a breach in the [opening], resulting in the blowout.”

However, the EPA’s Inspector General (IG) interviewed officials that said they were ordered not to dig out Gold King Mine, the watchdog wrote in a June report, which cleared the EPA of wrongdoing. The IG repeated the EPA’s claim that the breach was accidental.

The IG relied on official statements and made no attempt to dispute uncovered, contradicting emails that indicated the breach was intentional, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group previously revealed.

The watchdog also relied on testimony from an EPA official they referred to the Department of Justice with evidence he made false statements and violated the Clean Water Act. Federal attorneys declined to prosecute him.

The IG is keeping its investigative report regarding the employee secret until the EPA officials decide if they want to take action against him. No one has been punished for the spill, which occurred two years ago this Saturday.

Additionally, Gold King Mine’s primary site manager retired the summer after the spill. TheDCNF has written numerous stories about government officials retiring or resigning while under investigation or to avoid punishment. (RELATED: The EPA PAID A Child Molester To Retire)

Utah’s suit lists Gold King Mine’s owners and the contractors working on site as defendants, but not the EPA, even though the federal agency was leading the crew. The state hopes the EPA will settle out of court, Utah Attorney General’s Office spokesman Dan Burton told The Durango Herald.

New Mexico and the Navajo Nation have also filed lawsuits against the EPA in addition to the mine owners and contractors.

TheDCNF has published numerous investigations revealing details that the EPA and federal investigators have omitted in their reports on the disaster. TheDCNF has uncovered facts that suggest the EPA attempted to cover up their mistakes.

The agency the EPA selected to review the spill, for example, owned part of Gold King Mine. The EPA even threatened to hold the agency accountable for the pollution stemming from its portion of the mine.

Follow Ethan on Twitter. Send tips to

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact