Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Government’s Gold King Whitewash

  Paul Driessen

When a private citizen or company violates rules, misrepresents facts or pollutes a river, government penalties are swift and severe. It’s different when the government screws up.

...Ms. Jewell told Congress she was unaware of anyone being fired, fined or even demoted. In fact, federal investigations and reports didn’t hold anyone responsible for the disaster. (Maybe they even got bonuses.) Considering the spill’s severity, the gross incompetence of government officials, their advance knowledge of the dangers, and the way they downplayed and whitewashed their actions, this is intolerable.

...As I explained in a detailed analysis, experts had warned that contaminated water had probably backed up hundreds of feet upward into the mine, creating the risk of a sudden, powerful toxic flashflood. EPA, DRMS and ER’s prior experience with a nearby mine meant they personally knew the high risks in advance.

...On August 24, EPA issued a preliminary report that can only be called a Tom Sawyer whitewash, designed to absolve the perpetrators of any blame, liability, civil penalty or criminal prosecution.

...Their actions were grossly negligent. In fact, they are criminal offenses under the Clean Water Act and other laws that the government routinely uses to fine and jail private citizens and company employees, such as John Pozsgai, Bill Ellen, andemployees of Freedom Industries and the Pacific & Arctic Railway. None of these “convicted felons” intended to cause those accidents, and all were “absolutely, deeply sorry” for what happened. Why should the state and federal culprits be treated any differently, after causing far worse environmental damage?

...Before the blowout, the Gold King Mine was leaking 206 gallons of acidic, metals-laden but mostly clear water per minute in 2010, 140 gpm in 2011, 13 in August 2014 and 112 in September 2014, just before EPA first began working at the mine portal. On August 5, 2015, it flash-flooded more than 3,000,000 gallons of turmeric-orange, toxic-sludge-laden pollution.

The mine is now leaking 500-900 gallons per minute: 720,000 to 1,300,000 gallons per day – a huge increase in pollution into these important waterways. Until winter set in, most of it was apparently being treated before entering Cement Creek, the Animas River and downstream waters.

So we must ask, what was the emergency that “forced” the EPA and DRMS to return to Gold King, demand immediate access to the site – and proceed in such a hasty, negligent manner? Unfortunately, this incident and the whitewashing that followed is too typical of government agencies that have become increasingly dictatorial, unaccountable, and dismissive of other interests, outside expertise, and people’s needs for jobs, minerals, energy and quality living standards.

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