Will the public ever know why a government agency charged with protecting the environment instead dumped deadly chemicals into one of the largest sources of drinking water in the West?

The answer is: No. Not as long as Barack Obama’s rogue bureaucracies are permitted to operate as though they are above the law.  And not as long as the U.S. Congress refuses to assert its rightful powers under Article I of the Constitution.

Having a representative government means government is supposed to be subservient to the people’s elected representatives.  It does not mean allowing unelected mega-bureaucrats to continue acting with impunity – increasingly in direct contravention of the law.

Americans want to know: Will Congress finally take a stand against bureaucratic lawlessness? Or will it continue ceding its authority to an administration that has shown nothing but contempt for our laws.

Americans want to know: Will Congress finally take a stand against bureaucratic lawlessness? Or will it continue ceding its authority to an administration that has shown nothing but contempt for our laws.

On August 5, Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unleashed one of the worst natural disasters in American history.  Ignoring specific warnings, one of the agency’s cleanup crews destroyed a dam near the long-abandoned Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado.   This so-called accident sent more than three million gallons of toxic wastewater – containing cadmium, lead, arsenic and other pollutants – pouring into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.

 

The pollution turned the Animas a bright yellowish-orange color --  impacting water supplies in three different states.

Compounding the crisis, EPA officials waited more than twenty-four hours to notify the public of this toxic spill.  And when EPA administrator Gina McCarthy finally got around to visiting the area (a week later) – she refused to visit Silverton.

After the initial spill, things went from bad to worse for those relying on the river.  For example Navajo farmers – unable to use water from the river – were provided with emergency water reserves from the EPA.  Unfortunately this water was contaminated, too – prompting another attempted EPA cover-up.

According to The Guardian, EPA officials originally told Navajo leaders the individual reporting the contamination was “unstable” and deliberating “agitating” in an attempt to undermine the agency.  The Navajo leader, Russell Begaye, took the EPA at its word – at least until he observed the pollution for himself.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Begaye told the paper after inspecting the water and finding oily streaks in it. “I couldn’t believe the EPA’s higher-ups basically told me a lie.”

Such dishonesty from the agency has been epidemic in the aftermath of this spill.  No wonder many in the affected areas think this disaster was no accident – but rather part of an EPA conspiracy to secure additional environmental “cleanup” funding for the area.

“I don’t put anything past the EPA,” Utah state lawmaker Mike Noel recently told Newsweek.   “I’ve seen the way they use their regulating powers to shut down projects, harm mining, harm farmers.”

So what did the EPA know?  And when?  After weeks of prodding from multiple media outlets, the agency finally released heavily redacted documents on August 22 revealing its advance knowledge of the elevated risks associated with the Gold King Mine project.

“Conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages and cause a release of large volumes of contaminated mine waters and sediment from inside the mine, which contain concentrated heavy metals,” one of the documents dated June 2014 noted.

Unfortunately, an “unresponsive, secretive and unsympathetic” EPA is blocking the release of additional, un-redacted documents being sought by a congressional committee investigating the disaster.  According to the U.S. House Science Committee, the EPA is refusing to provide “documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine spill” sought in connection with an upcoming hearing.

Congress must act now to assert its constitutional authority.   For starters, McCarthy and other EPA officials must deliver these documents and provide truthful testimony regarding how they turned the Animas River into a new Crayola color -- or be found in contempt. 

Meanwhile lawmakers must zero in on the EPA’s multi-billion budget like never before – starting with legislation introduced earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson specifically targeting its wasteful programs. 

If House leadership is willing to shut down debate over appropriations bills (including the EPA’s budget) over an arcane Confederate flag, surely this merits an even bolder response.

The EPA is not above the law.  It must be held accountable -- not only for this spill, but the broader damage it is doing to the U.S. economy.

Richard Manning is president of Americans for Limited Government. Follow Americans for Limited Government on Twitter@LimitGovt, find them on Facebook  and visit their website.