Carson slams EPA over Colorado mine spill

Carson slams EPA over Colorado mine spill
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Republican presidential candidate Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonNY attorney general to investigate alleged Long Island housing discrimination Ben Carson accuses Maxine Waters of 'shamelessness,' hypocrisy on homelessness Trump launches effort to boost support among black voters MORE slammed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday for its handling of a toxic spill into Colorado’s Animas River this month.

“The citizens, businesses and peoples relying on the vitality of the Animas River deserve complete, transparent and expeditious accountability on this matter from the EPA,” Carson said in Durango, Colo. He said the EPA should pay for clean-up costs the same way it would levy fines against private-sector polluters.

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“I suggest that these reparations be paid from fines collected by EPA, and not by additional tax dollars from the general fund,” he said. “The EPA must face the same consequences and same accountability as they require of each of us.”

A team of EPA contractors inadvertently spilled 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into the Animas River earlier this month while inspecting an abandoned gold mine.

Carson toured the river by helicopter on Tuesday and later told supporters that the agency should not get a free pass for the spill.

“One wonders, if this accident had occurred at the hands of a private business, or even an individual property owner, would the EPA be as forgiving as they have been of themselves?” he said. “I think not.”  

Carson proposed a “new missions statement” for the EPA, including a focus on not harming the environment, issuing “objective” fines and penalties for polluters, and working with businesses and industries to write environmental regulations. 

“We all want a better environment,” he said. “We all want to protect the environment for generations to come. We all want more common sense in the administration of our environmental laws and policies.”

Since the EPA’s Aug. 5 spill, officials have worked to track water quality in the region, which has returned to pre-spill conditions. The agency ceased all future mine inspections until the cause of the spill is identified.

Administrator Gina McCarthy visited the site last week, apologized for the accident and called for internal and external investigations into it. The EPA’s inspector general announced Monday that it had kicked off an inquiry. 

The spill has drawn the ire of Republicans both at the Capitol and on the campaign trail.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another presidential candidate, said last week that the spill illustrates the EPA’s “incompetence.” Front-runner Donald Trump said the incident proves the EPA should hand its duties over to state, not federal, regulators. 

Lawmakers have promised to hold hearings on the matter when Congress returns this fall.