On August 5, 2015, an EPA-led project to remediate environmental damage caused by the abandoned (since 1923) Gold King mine went horribly wrong. It resulted in some three million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas River causing about $500 million in damages. True to the traditions of the EPA, no one was disciplined, no one was prosecuted, no one was fined, and, though the EPA accepted responsibility for the spill it refused to pay any claims on grounds of “sovereign immunity.”
Today, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt visited the site and let everyone know that wasn’t how the EPA was going to operate in the future:
“I think it’s safe to say if this had been any other company, a BP-type of 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. Here, the people of Colorado were harmed. The people of Utah, the people of New Mexico were harmed.”
He added: “In my estimation, the EPA walked away from those folks and left them in a position of incurring damages without taking accountability.”
Precisely correct. If you look at BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill, not only was BP fined, it was sued, and the federal government prosecuted four employees.
But the EPA doesn’t do accountability. They create their own rules and ruthlessly break anyone who dares to challenge them. These are the fascists who will literally throw you in jail for filling mud holes–sorry, I mean ‘waters of the United States’–on your own property.
“I’ve already sent out a letter to all the claimants who have filed claims asking them to resubmit,” Pruitt told The Denver Post in a phone interview ahead of his visit to the Gold King. “Some of those folks I’m sure I’ll meet today, and I’m looking forward to speaking with them directly. Farmers and ranchers, business owners, the recreational activities that occur on the Animas River — all were impacted, and from my perspective it was a wrong that we need to make right.”
Pruitt called that a “wrong” that the Trump administration intends to fix. The EPA sent letters to 77 claimants whose claims were previously denied, explaining that the agency will reconsider.
This is a great move. Pruitt has been getting a lot of heat from the enviro-nazis over his changes in the EPA. He’s stopped a lot of regulations that were in the pipeline (and unlike some folks would have you think, stopping regulations is a major accomplishment and the Trump administration is the first administration to actually try to curb the regulatory power of the federal government) and he’s started action to rescind others. I expect we will see the EPA settling a lot of lawsuits on terms favorable to the plaintiffs and boxing in future EPA actions via consent decrees. Most Americans are in favor of a clean environment and the Gold King disaster is a prime example of EPA incompetence, meddling, and duplicity. By settling these claims and making remediation here a priority, Pruitt will start building a fact case to support his way of doing business. Plus, those claims may end up being paid out of the EPA’s budget.