EPA employees won't face charges over Colorado mine spill

EPA employees won't face charges over Colorado mine spill
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The Department of Justice (DOJ) has decided not to prosecute an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee involved in last year’s massive spill of toxic mine waste in Colorado.

A year-long investigation by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the unnamed employee may have broken federal water pollution law and may have made false statements to law enforcement officials regarding the Gold King Mine spill.

But after the OIG referred its findings for potential prosecution, the United States Attorney for Colorado, headed by acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, declined last week to pursue the charges, OIG spokesman Jeffrey Lagda said Wednesday.

The decision by the Troyer’s office means that no one will be prosecuted as a result of the OIG’s investigation into the incident.

It closes a significant chapter on the August 2015 incident, in which an EPA contractor doing work toward cleaning up the abandoned mine caused 3 million gallons of sludge containing heavy metals such as arsenic and cadmium into a tributary of the Animas River.

The EPA immediately took responsibility for the spill and provided millions of dollars to the area to help it recover. But the agency has still be criticized repeatedly for its actions leading to and following the spill.

Three House Republicans slammed the DOJ Wednesday for declining to pursue charges.

“By not taking up the case, the Department of Justice looks like it is going easy on its colleagues in EPA,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: Winners, losers in omnibus bill | EPA funding stands at .1b | Lawmakers get wildfire funding fix Spending bill includes major wildfire overhaul Tribe clashes with Zinke on need for Mexican border wall MORE (R-Utah), Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzAmericans want to protect public lands, Congress should listen Chaffetz: Florida school shooting survivors 'need a belief in God and Jesus Christ' Chaffetz: 'Mind-boggling' that Trump would call out his own AG MORE (R-Utah) and oversight subcommittee on interior Chairwoman Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisFemale lawmakers flee House for higher office, retirement Despite a battle won, 'War on Coal' far from over Dems on offense in gubernatorial races MORE (R-Wyo.) wrote in a letter to DOJ.

“Its lack of action on these charges give the appearance of hypocrisy, and seem to indicate that there is one set of rules for private citizens and another for the federal government. The EPA disaster deserves the same level of accountability to which private citizens are held,” they said.

The OIG briefed congressional staff on the news Tuesday, and the GOP lawmakers said the OIG’s findings showed evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

The OIG is still investigating the Gold King incident, but the criminal portion of its probe has closed.