Senate Committee on Indian Affairs weighs subpoena of EPA leader

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks at the National Congress of American Indians executive council winter session in Washington, D.C., on February 22, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is meeting on Wednesday to consider a subpoena against the leader of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Administrator Gina McCarthy appeared before the committee last September to discuss her agency's response to the Gold King Mine disaster. But that was in Washington, D.C., and lawmakers -- along with tribal leaders -- want her to come face-to-face with the people who were affected by the spill at a field hearing in Arizona next week.

"She is the one in charge at the EPA," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman of the committee, said at an unrelated hearing last week during which a request for a subpoena came up. "The Senate has confirmed her nomination with the understanding that the EPA would be responsive to Congress, and this is not being responsive.”

The committee in the past has scheduled business meetings to consider subpoenas against the Indian Health Service and the Interior Department. In both of those instances, the subpoenas were never authorized because the IHS and DOI agreed to supply the information requested.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing. The discussion of a subpoena to the Environmental Protection Agency occurs in Track 1, Opening Statements.

More than a decade ago, the committee issued subpoenas against individuals who were connected to the Jack Abramoff scandal. But in recent history it has never issued one directly to an executive branch official or a Cabinet member like McCarthy, who otherwise has repeatedly taken responsibility for the spill that sent at least 3 million gallons of toxic mine waste into the waters of three reservations in Colorado and New Mexico.

“The Gold King Mine spill culturally and economically devastated Navajo communities along the San Juan River, and the federal government’s failed response to this crisis is a public health, natural resources and economic disaster," President Russell Begaye of the Navajo Nation said in a press release last week. "The Navajo people have suffered due to the reckless actions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other responsible parties.”

The business meeting takes place at 2:15pm in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. It will be immediately followed by a legislative hearing.

The committee's field hearing will take place Friday, April 22, at city council chambers in Phoenix. A witness list hasn't been posted online.

Committee Notices:
Business Meeting to authorize the issuance of a subpoena to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, to testify before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, on April 22, 2016, in Phoenix, AZ. (April 13, 2016)
Field Oversight Hearing on “Examining EPA’s Unacceptable Response to Indian Tribes" (April 22, 2016)

Federal Register Notice:
National Priorities List (April 7, 2016)

Prior Committee Hearing Notices:
Oversight Hearing on the Department of the Interior’s Role in the EPA’s Animas Spill (December 9, 2015)
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)

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