DOJ WON’T Charge EPA Employee Who Caused Gold King Mine Disaster

The Department of Justice declined to prosecute an EPA employeedespite overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado, “declined toprosecute the EPA employee” responsible for the Gold King Minedisaster, the watchdog announced Wednesday.

The EPA Inspector General (IG) launched a year-longinvestigation into whether an employee violated the Clean Water Actand made false statements over the Gold King Minedisaster. The IG did not disclose the employee’s name.

The watchdog’s investigation began after an EPA crewbreached the Gold King Mine in August 2015, unleashing threemillion gallons of dangerous metals like lead, cadmium and arsenicinto the Animas River. That flood effectively poisoned drinkingwater for three states and the Navajo Nation.

The decision not to prosecute in the Gold King Mine casecontrasts with evidence made public during the past year bymultiple Daily Caller News Foundation investigations:

  • The EPA breached the mine intentionally, even thoughofficials knew it was pressurized and despite agency claims to thecontrary.
  • The now-retired chief EPA employee at GoldKing Mine, Steven Way, was away on vacation when the disasteroccurred. He left orders not to breach the mine, which histemporary replacement, Hays Griswold, violated.
  • The EPA played a significant role in a supposedlyindependent review of the disaster, which was conducted by itssister agency, the Department of the Interior (DOI). Critics chargethe EPA’s role led to an apparent interagency cover up of how the EPA caused thedisaster.
  • Numerous DOI agencies were involved at GoldKing Mine and in other mines in the region, causing an inherentconflict of interest. A peer reviewer was highly critical of theresulting report and was told DOI had orders to “stay clear” of investigating negligence.
  • A House Committee on Natural Resources-led investigation alsopresented evidence that the Clean Water Act was likely violated.

To date, no one has been publicly held responsible ordisciplined for the disaster. Private companies responsible forsimilar spills have faced civil or even criminal charges soonafter such disasters. The EPA, however, remainsunpunished.

The Justice Department has gained notoriety for multipledecisions to forgo prosecution, despite significant evidence, withthe most glaring example being FBI Director James Comey’s decisionnot to recommend prosecution of former Secretary of State HillaryClinton for using a personal email and a private server forofficial business.

The Justice Department hasn’t prosecuted any IRS officialsover the illegal targeting of Tea Party and conservative non-profitapplicants during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns, even thoughthere was significant evidence of wrongdoing, aTheDCNF investigation showed.

The Justice Department has let numerous other employees gounpunished for lesser, but still significant misconduct. TheNatural Resources Committee, for example, held a hearing thissummer highlighting numerous DOI officials who weren’t heldaccountable. Justice Department officials declined the panel’s invitation to explainpublicly why they were letting such employees go.

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