Bishop, Chaffetz to Target EPA over Mine Accident

Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz call for external probes into the Gold King Mine spill, which released a 3 million gallon wastewater plume that is now flowing down the San Juan River toward Utah.

Reports the Washington Examiner (see also related Daily Caller and Washington Times stories):

The accident comes at a politically fraught time for the agency, which just a week ago finalized its rule for limiting carbon emissions from power plants, the signature and most contentious environmental regulation of President Obama’s tenure.

More congressional attacks on the Obama administration over the incident are expected from Republicans. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, whose committee oversees federal mine management, said his panel “will be conducting extensive oversight over the causes and the short-term and long-term effects of this serious situation.”

McCarthy called the disaster “heartbreaking,” but contended the Animas River’s water quality has recovered, confirming a Colorado state report. Still, the agency will likely face lawsuits over the incident.

An agency contractor using heavy machinery punctured the mine, which contained water contaminated with heavy metals from previous mining. The release of water into the river turned it orange, and polluted water flowing into New Mexico and Utah.

McCarthy directed the agency’s regional offices to halt investigative work at the mines unless there is “imminent risk,” while another federal agency or “another external entity” conducts a review to determine what went wrong.

“Based on the outcome from that assessment, we will determine what actions may be necessary to avoid similar incidents at other sites,” McCarthy said in her instruction to other regions.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, sent a letter Wednesday to the EPA’s internal watchdog alleging that the EPA “is not well-positioned to conduct a competent internal review in this case,” and called for an independent probe.