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.

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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 BishopRyan picks his negotiating team for tax cut bill Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments Five things to know about Trump's national monuments order MORE (R-Utah), Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzDem demands documents from TSA after scathing security report Chaffetz replacement sworn in as House member Democrats expand House map after election victories MORE (R-Utah) and oversight subcommittee on interior Chairwoman Cynthia LummisCynthia 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.