GOP lawmaker knocks EPA over mine spill response

GOP lawmaker knocks EPA over mine spill response
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The chairman of the House Committee holding the first hearing into this month’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mine spill is hitting the agency for not handing over documents related to the incident. 

Rep. Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithLawmakers scold NASA for cost overruns Big Tobacco’s smoke and mirrors revived by Pruitt’s science transparency policy Freedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights MORE (R-Texas) said “it is disappointing, but not surprising” that the EPA didn’t provide the House Science, Space and Technology committee with a string of documents he requested earlier this month. 

Smith sent EPA administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyLawmakers rally to keep Pruitt from transparently restricting science EPA says it abandoned plan for office in Pruitt’s hometown Overnight Energy: Pruitt blames staff for controversies | Ex-Obama official to head new Harvard climate center | Electric vehicles on road expected to triple MORE a letter on Aug. 10 asking her to provide information related to the Aug. 5 incident, which sent 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into Colorado’s Animas River. 

The request included documents related to the chemicals present at the Gold King Mine before the spill, EPA water analysis conducted in the Animas River and other information. 

Smith set a Monday deadline for the EPA to respond, and he slammed for the agency for missing the deadline on Tuesday. 

“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the EPA failed to meet the House Science Committee’s reasonable deadline in turning over documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine spill,” he said in a statement. 

“These documents are essential to the committee’s ongoing investigation and our upcoming hearing on Sept. 9th. But more importantly, this information matters to the many Americans directly affected in western states, who are still waiting for answers from the EPA.”

EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said officials are still collecting the information they intend to provide the committee and noted the agency has released some documents on its website. 

“Since the Gold King Mine incident, EPA has been inundated with requests for documents related to the response,” she said.

“EPA has posted a large number of documents on our response website, many of which are responsive to the committee’s request. EPA is continuing to identify additional documents responsive to the request and will provide them to the committee as soon as they are available.”

Smith called McCarthy to testify during September’s hearing, which is likely to be just the first of many congressional inquires into the spill.

Also Tuesday, local officials in Colorado formally requested federal funds to help clean up the site of the mine, the Associated Press reports.

San Juan County and Silverton, Colo. officials have long resisted a Superfund designation for the site, but they said Tuesday that federal funding was necessary to help clean up the mine.

"We recognize that this is a regional problem and that it starts in our neighborhood," San Juan County Commission Chair Willy Tookey said in a statement.

—This post was updated at 4:50 p.m.