A key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee knew that the August mine waste spill in Colorado was a real possibility, a House Republican report concluded.
The GOP said that Hays Griswold, who led the EPA’s efforts at Colorado’s Gold King Mine, told colleagues two months later that he “personally knew” about the risk of a blowout.
The communication is a main piece of a 74-page report the House Natural Resources Committee released Thursday, the result of months of research into the incident.
Knowledge of the risk could have prevented the blowout, which resulted in 3 million gallons of toxic mine waste spilling into a tributary of the Animas River, turning it and downstream water bodies bright orange for days and closing them down.
Republicans say the report shows numerous times that the Obama administration changed its story about the lead-up to the incident and aftermath.
“This report peels back one more layer in what many increasingly view as a pattern of deception on the part of EPA and DOI,” Rep. Rob BishopRob BishopHouse passes National Park Service centennial bill House GOP picks two women to lead committees Trump's Interior candidates would play Russian roulette with West MORE (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.
“We will need heavier efforts to squeeze out the full truth,” he said. “The agencies continue to withhold information requested by the committee. They need to come clean and produce the missing documents.”
EPA spokeswoman Nancy Grantham said the agency is reviewing the committee’s report “and will respond accordingly.”
The EPA quickly took responsibility for the spill and has repeatedly apologized. But the GOP says that’s not enough.
“If these EPA employees were anything other than government officials, they would have already been on their way to prison wearing orange jumpsuits,” said Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas), chairman of the oversight subcommittee in Natural Resources.
“This report points out the many inconsistencies within the EPA’s and DOI’s reports on the spill and shines a light on their gross incompetence,” he said.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), the panel’s top Democrat, called the GOP’s report “a desperate attempt to shift blame away from a mining industry that’s left thousands of these abandoned toxic sites all over the country,” and called for legislation to charge royalties for mineral miners on federal land, to pay for cleanups.
“Today’s report ignores that context in a weak attempt to justify inaccurate, ideological ‘conclusions’ the majority decided on months ago,” he said.