#AnimasRiver: Gov. Hickenlooper, members of federal delegation send letter to #EPA requesting additional support

Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

Gov. John Hickenlooper and members of Colorado’s federal delegation yesterday sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking for additional support for the Bonita Peak Mining District. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, and Congressman Scott Tipton joined Hickenlooper on the letter in support of the local communities including the Towns of Silverton and Durango, San Juan and La Plata Counties.

“As part of Superfund designation process, we reiterate the importance of addressing the concerns expressed by the Town of Silverton and San Juan County and that cleanup moves forward in a way that works for all affected localities,” said Hickenlooper.

Specifically, the letter urges the EPA to expand the scope and planned timeline to operate the temporary water treatment plant on Cement Creek as well as provide adequate funding and collaborate with local governments, tribes, and the state to conduct long-term monitoring along the Animas River and at sites of specific concern to each community. The letter also reiterated support for an expedited claims and reimbursement process for the communities.

Click here to read the letter.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton this week asked EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for extra support — emphasizing the EPA role triggering the Aug. 5 Gold King disaster.

They’re demanding that the EPA ensure sufficient funding for cleanup as promised, that Silverton and nearby communities get a seat at the table as promised, and robust interim cleanup of creek water as promised.

“We urge you to prioritize funding for this project as soon as possible to restore the health of the Animas River watershed, protect public health, and maintain the local recreation and tourism economy,” Hickenlooper and the lawmakers said in a letter to McCarthy.

While EPA officials have proposed a priority listing of mine sites around Silverton and say they’ll treat the Gold King cleanup like any other site, the Colorado leaders insisted that “the EPA must recognize its role in the most recent spill and its subsequent obligation to this community.”

They contend a temporary treatment plant on Cement Creek “may not operate” beyond this fall and that “this facility has the ability to treat more of the acid mine drainage in the watershed.”

They asked EPA officials to expand the scope of those water-cleaning operations, to be continued until overall cleanup is done, and to speed up reimbursement of costs that towns, counties, tribes and businesses incurred due to the 3 million-gallon deluge — caused by botched EPA efforts to drain the Gold King Mine.

“We also have heard significant concerns from local communities that the current water quality monitoring on the Animas River is not sufficient,” the letter said. “It is likely that spring runoff will remobilize the sediments and metals deposited during the spill. … The EPA must provide adequate funding. … The funds pledged to date by EPA for these needs are insufficient.”

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress continue to harass the EPA. Here’s a report from Matthew Daly writing for the Associated Press via 12NewsNow.com:

Senate Republicans vowed Tuesday to issue a subpoena to force the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to appear at a field hearing in Phoenix next week on a toxic mine spill that fouled rivers in three Western states and on lands belonging to two Native American tribes.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso said the Senate Indian Affairs Committee will vote Wednesday on a plan to subpoena EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Barrasso chairs the Indian Affairs panel, which is conducting an April 22 hearing on the 3-million gallon spill at Colorado’s abandoned Gold King Mine. The Aug. 5 spill contaminated rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, as well as in the Navajo Nation and Southern Ute Reservation.

If approved, the subpoena would be the first issued by the Indian Affairs panel since 2004, during the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Abramoff was a prominent Republican lobbyist who pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion in the purchase of gambling cruise boats. He spent 3 and 1/2 years in prison…

Barrasso said the EPA has been “reckless,” first in causing the spill and then in failing to address it.

“They took their eye off the ball,” Barrasso said of the EPA. “They caused this toxic spill and now they are still not focused on cleaning up the mess they caused.”

An EPA spokeswoman said Tuesday that McCarthy was never invited to attend the hearing; an official who oversees emergency management was asked to testify.

In a letter to the committee, the EPA said it will make two high-ranking officials available to testify, including Mathy Stanislaus, an assistant EPA administrator who originally was invited to testify. Stanislaus initially said he had a scheduling conflict. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter Tuesday night.

Spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said earlier that the agency has agreed to provide written testimony for the hearing, scheduled for Earth Day.

McCarthy testified before the Senate Indian Affairs and Environment committees on the spill last year.

Barrasso called the agency’s initial response another indication that the EPA “has grown too big, too arrogant, too irresponsible and too unaccountable” to the American people.

“On Earth Day, the EPA ought to be there to confess the failures of the (Obama) administration” to those affected by the spill and specify “what they are going to do to correct it,” Barrasso said.

Barrasso cited news reports indicating that McCarthy is likely to be among U.S. officials joining Secretary of State John Kerry in New York at an Earth Day ceremony to sign a global climate change agreement reached in Paris last year. The agreement calls for the U.S. and nearly 200 other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

McCarthy would rather be in New York “talking about what happened in Paris instead of going to Arizona to face the people who her agency has abandoned,” Barrasso said. “That’s what she thinks is more important.”

McCarthy plans to spend Earth Day in Washington, Harrison said.

The EPA recently announced it would spend $157,000 to help the Navajo Nation recover costs incurred during the response to the Gold King spill. The money is in addition to more than $1.1 million spent by the EPA in response costs for the Navajo immediately following the spill.

The EPA has awarded the Navajo more than $93 million in grants to develop environmental and infrastructure programs, Harrison said.

Photo via the @USGS Twitter feed
Photo via the @USGS Twitter feed

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