Environment | Law | National | Politics

House committees hold long hearing into Gold King Mine spill

Navajo Nation President visited the Gold King Mine site in August. Photo from Facebook

The House Natural Resources Committee and the House Oversight Committee held a grueling hearing into the Gold King Mine disaster on Thursday.

The joint proceeding didn't tread much new ground after three prior hearings on the subject in the last two weeks on Capitol Hill. But lawmakers -- primarily Republicans on both committees -- kept Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy at the witness table for nearly three hours as they slammed her for the Obama administration's response to a spill that has affected the Navajo Nation and the Southern Ute Tribe.

“You are not telling the truth," Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) at one point told McCarthy.

In contrast, lawmakers praised the two tribes and the state of New Mexico for their handling of the crisis. Navajo President Russell Begaye visited the site of the spill at the abandoned mine in Colorado, something McCarthy didn't do when she visited the state and the reservation a week after the August 5.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Joint Oversight Hearing on EPA’s Animas Spill

The Southern Ute Tribe declared a disaster on August 8, becoming the first government to do so. The spill caused at least 3 million gallons of toxic waste to enter the Animas River, which runs through the reservation.

In total, McCarthy appeared at three hearings this week. She was the sole witness before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday morning following a series of statements by lawmakers from the states of Colorado and New Mexico.

Later that afternoon, she testified before Senate Indian Affairs Committee. She appeared on her own panel and did not stay for the entirety of the hearing due to scheduling matters.

McCarthy appeared on her own panel at yesterday's hearing as well. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, suggested she did so in order to avoid sitting with tribal leaders at the witness table.

Get the Story:
EPA, Congress clash over Gold King Mine effect on Navajo Nation (The Denver Post 9/18)
Are the Gold King hearings a ‘farce’? (The Durango Herald 9/18)
Agency considers treatment facility (The Durango Herald 9/18)
New Mexico official: EPA kept water data secret after spill (AP 9/17)
EPA Administrator: Agency did not shirk duty in Gold King Mine spill (AP 9/16)

Committee Notices:
House Committee on Science, Space and Technology: Holding EPA Accountable for Polluting Western Waters (September 9, 2015)
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: Oversight of the Cause, Response, and Impacts of EPA’s Gold King Mine Disaster (September 16, 2015)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee: Oversight Hearing on "EPA's Gold King Mine Disaster: Examining the Harmful Impacts to Indian Country" (September 16, 2015)
House Natural Resources Committee and House Oversight Committee: Joint Oversight Hearing on “EPA’s Animas Spill" (September 17, 2015)

Related Stories:
EPA chief faces fire for dealings with tribes after mine disaster (9/17)
EPA Administrator to appear at three Gold King Mine hearings (9/11)
Navajo Nation cites 'culture of distrust' with Gold King Mine spill (09/10)
Navajo Nation hosts Erin Brockovich after spill at Gold King Mine (9/9)
House committee to hold first hearing into Gold King Mine spill (9/8)
Navajo Nation welcomes Erin Brockovich in aftermath of disaster (9/7)
Navajo Nation hires firm to pursue Gold King Mine spill lawsuit (9/1)
Multiple Capitol Hill hearings set into disaster at Gold King Mine (8/31)
Navajo Nation to reopen irrigation canal after Gold King mine spill (8/28)
EPA releases internal report into Gold King Mine spill disaster (8/27)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold hearing on EPA mine spill (8/26)
Native Sun News: Tribes respond to toxic spill at abandoned mine (8/25)
Navajo Nation remains cautious after spill impacts water system (8/21)
Navajo Nation farmers losing crops amid mine spill concerns (8/18)
Leader of EPA visits Navajo Nation after mine spill in Colorado (8/13)
President of Navajo Nation upset with EPA's response to spill (8/12)
Navajo Leader: 'This is an assault on who we are as Dine people' (8/11)
Navajo Nation to sue EPA over release of mine waste into waters (8/10)

Join the Conversation