Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt visited the site of the devastating Gold King Mine spill in Colorado that spilled 3 million gallons of contaminated mine water into the Cement Creek and Animas River, saying the Obama EPA “failed” at its mission to protect the environment.
“EPA should be held to the same standard as those we regulate,” Pruitt said about the visit that took place on the eve of the two-year anniversary of the spill.
“The previous administration failed those who counted on them to protect the environment,” Pruitt said.
The press announcement of the visit noted that in January 2017, the previous EPA administration denied 79 administrative claims filed by farmers, ranchers, homeowners, businesses, employees, state and local governments, as well as other individuals seeking damages in connection with the Gold King Mine incident.
“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 announcing the visit said.
The visit fulfilled the promise Pruitt made during his confirmation hearing to visit the site. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper joined Pruitt for a tour of the site.
Following the tour, EPA political appointees participated in a town hall in Durango, Colo. with local residents about how they were affected by the spill.
“We want to listen and learn directly from the community,” Ken Wagner, senior advisor to the administrator for regional and state affairs, said.
“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,” Wagner said.
The Denver Post reported that Pruitt pointed out the hypocrisy on this disaster compared to the Obama administration’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,” Pruitt said.
“In my estimation, the EPA walked away from those folks and left them in a position of incurring damages without taking accountability,” Pruitt said.