Senators Call For Criminal Probe Of EPA’s Gold King Mine Disaster

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Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman John Barrasso andSen. John McCain asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch acriminal investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA)-caused Gold King Mine disaster.

The EPA spilled 880,000 pounds of dangerous metals like lead andarsenic into the Animas River while digging at Colorado’s Gold KingMine in August 2015, poisoning drinking water for three states andthe Navajo Nation. (RELATED: EPA’s Gold King Mine Blowout Was NoAccident)

Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, and McCain, an ArizonaRepublican, pointed out the EPA’s responsibility for thespill and note the agency’s failure to conduct a water pressuretest, which likely would have prevented the disaster.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation sought by the twosenators would determine whether any EPA officials or contractorscommitted a crime related to the spill. (RELATED: Here’s Why EPA Could Face CriminalCharges For Gold King Mine Blowout)

“[W]e believe that sufficient information exists to warrant aninvestigation by the Justice Department of whether EPA employees orcontractors may have committed crimes in connection with the spill,including but not limited to criminal violations of federalenvironmental laws, criminal negligence and obstruction,” theRepublican senators wrote.

“DOJ’s involvement is necessary to affirm that the government iswilling to hold itself to the same level of accountability as itholds private companies whose negligence results in seriousenvironmental damage,” the letter continued.

An agency spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation that“after the accidental release, EPA took responsibility for thecleanup, and conducted an internal review of the events leading upto the Gold King Mine incident.” She also noted anongoing EPA inspector general (IG) investigation.

The senators, however, addressed both the internal reviewand the IG’s work.

“EPA officials have already tried to obstruct the [IG’s]investigation,” the letter said. “For this reason, notwithstandingthe OIG’s statutory independence from the agency, we—and moreimportantly—those communities adversely affected by the disastercan have no confidence that the agency can investigate itself.”

The EPA spokeswoman noted the agency also requested anindependent review.

“Also, at EPA’s request, based upon the U.S. Department oflnterior’s (DOI) mining expertise, DOI conducted an independenttechnical review of the incident,” she said.

But McCain previously criticized the EPA for selecting DOIto conduct the review, given Interior’s numerous conflicts of interest andinvolvement with Gold King Mine outside the investigation.

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