In yet another sign that President Donald J. Trump picked just the right person for the right job at the right time, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt criticized the department for “failing” big time to “protect the environment” following the disastrous Gold King Mine debacle in August 2015.
Commemorating the two-year anniversary of the disaster from the site where the contamination occurred, Pruitt declared, “EPA should be held to the same standard as those we regulate. The previous administration failed those who counted on them to protect the environment.”
A work crew at the site contracting for the EPA unleashed 3-4 million gallons of highly toxic water containing heavy metals during an excavation project gone wrong. The toxic water spewed into a nearby creek and eventually contaminated waterways in three states and the Navajo Nation. (Related: Much of the EPA’s Gold King Mine investigation remains secret.)
In the process, the spill turned the Animas and San Juan rivers a bright orange color, harming farmers who were dependent on the waters to irrigate crops. Also, the spill led to many questions about the EPA’s role and its overall response to an environmental disaster it created.
In a press release regarding Pruitt’s visit, the EPA noted that in January, before Trump took office, the prior agency administration denied 79 administrative claims that were filed by ranchers, farmers, homeowners, businesses, employees and state and local governments, in addition to other concerned parties harmed by the spill.
“Despite the release of 3 million gallons of contaminated water tainted with arsenic, lead and other heavy metals, which turned the Animas River mustard-yellow, and moved along the San Juan River through Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and American Indian land to Lake Powell in Utah, the EPA Administrator at the time, Gina McCarthy, nor President Obama nor Vice President Biden, ever visited the site of the spill itself,” the press release said, as reported by Breitbart News.
In July Pruitt said the agency would reconsider claims that had been denied by the Obama administration.
“When I was appointed EPA Administrator by President Trump, I committed to review the Gold King Mine decision made by the previous Administration. A new review is paramount to ensure that those who have, in fact, suffered losses have a fair opportunity to have their claims heard,” Pruitt said.
By visiting the site, Pruitt fulfilled a pledge he made during his confirmation hearing to both U.S. senators from Colorado: Republican Cory Gardner, Democrat Michael Bennet. Gov. John Hickenlooper joined Pruitt during his site tour.
The disaster occurred Aug. 5, 2015. Since then the EPA has spent more than $29 million responding to and addressing concerns that stem from the accident. Currently, there are about 144 claims pending, the press release stated.
Following Pruitt’s visit, EPA political appointees took part in a town hall event in Durango, Colorado, to discuss the spill with concerned residents.
“We want to listen and learn directly from the community,” said Ken Wagner, a senior advisor to Pruitt for regional and state affairs. “The local community is ground zero in environmental disasters, and we want to hear their concerns and do our best to coordinate and provide assistance.”
In an interview with the Denver Post, Pruitt noted the hypocrisy of the Obama EPA’s anti-fossil fuel agenda.
“I think it’s safe to say if this had been any other company, a BP-type of a situation, there would have been an investigation that would ensue by the agency and there would have been accountability,” Pruitt said. “That didn’t take place here.
“The federal government should not be able to hide behind sovereign immunity when the facts don’t meet the protections,” he added. “In my estimation, the EPA walked away from those folks and left them in a position of incurring damages without taking accountability.”
Before becoming EPA administrator, Pruitt was Oklahoma’s attorney general, where he sued the agency on some occasions, mostly over onerous and expensive rules based on bogus “global warming” claims.
J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for NaturalNews.com and NewsTarget.com, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.