Do you remember images of a sickeningly yellow Animas River in Colorado, toxic residue clumsily spilled from the Gold King Mine?
If not, don’t blame yourself. It’s not like the incident gets much ink or video these days. But as noted by Heritage Foundation founder Ed Feulner in the Washington Times, the spill was pretty big news for a few minutes anyway. There were even pictures of people kayaking in the sickly yellow morass.
You also may not remember how the nasty water filled with arsenic, lead, mercury and other contaminants got that way. Well, you can thank your friendly neighborhood federal agency – the one that’s actually in charge of keeping water like that which flows in the Animas clean: The Environmental Protection Agency.
Yes, that’s right, contractors working for the nation’s “premier” environmental institution caused the spill. However, if it had been caused, say, by some “evil corporation,” then the country might never have heard the end of it. The Left-wing Old Media would have badgered that poor company to death, but as it happened, it was a Big Government agency instead and, you know, to committed media Leftists, big government can never do wrong.
That said, much to the chagrin of the worshipers of government, the spill is back thanks in large part to a new report from the House Committee on Natural Resources, which found that the spill was even larger than that which the EPA is admitting (big surprise there).
As Feulner reported:
It was already known that the 3 million gallons of waste water released into the Animas contained toxic heavy metals — arsenic, lead and mercury among them. Now we’ve learned that it was 880,000 pounds of these dangerous metals, flowing from one of the thousands of abandoned mines that dot Western states.
What was ironic is that the EPA was on site at Gold King to identify and then contain a leak of contaminated water within the mine. However workers would up dislodging a plug of material that kept the toxin-filled water hemmed in. Once that dam was breached, the chemical-laced water deluged into a river that serves as a primary source of drinking water for thousands of Coloradans and residents of other states.
Indeed, New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn told Fox News that while field agents for the EPA have been helpful, “something gets lost in translation once it gets to the leadership level.
“They would be happy to see this just all go away,” he added.
If that seems unfair or extreme, Feulner notes that the EPA commissioned a report about the spill that essentially misses the larger point: Who’s going to take responsibility.
“Prepared by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), a component of the Interior Department, it seems comprehensive enough — at first glance,” he writes. “It contains photos, maps and charts about the affected area. At 89 pages, it’s certainly long enough.”
However, as noted by Heritage Foundation fellow Paul Larkin, Jr., “the considerable amount of non-narrative material … does little for the lay reader but distract from the question of who is responsible for this spill and whether or not he or they will be held accountable.”
For that matter, “the material does little to inform readers exactly how the incident happened,” Larkin continued.
Now, following the BOR report the House has released one of its own. EPA spokeswomen Nancy Grantham told Feulner that her agency was “going to take a look” at it “and will respond appropriately.”
But there’s no good reason to accept that at face value. For starters, the EPA’s reputation is lousy; just last year a report from a nonprofit that promotes government transparency, Open the Books, raised serious questions about the agency’s behavior.
“For one thing, the agency spends money like it’s running its own printing press,” Feulner wrote. “An audit by Open the Books of EPA expenditures from 2000 to 2014 found hundreds of millions going toward such things as luxury furnishings, sports equipment and ‘environmental justice’ grants to raise awareness of global warming (hardly an issue with an ‘awareness’ problem).”
Not only that but the agency has spent millions arming itself over the past decade, buying guns, ammunition, body armor, camouflage, night-vision gear and even amphibious assault ships.
The fact is, had this accident been made by a private company, it would have been the EPA that handed out the fines and punishments, and they would have been heavy. So, who holds the EPA to account?
Congress will have to do it (because Obama won’t) – but is it up to the task? Commissioning a report is not the same thing as holding an agency and its officials responsible.
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