Sen. Barrasso calls on EPA leader to attend hearing on Gold King Mine spill

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy meets with Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates, far right, President Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez and Attorney General Ethel Branch in Shiprock, New Mexico, on August 12, 2015. Photo from Navajo Nation Council / Facebook

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs took to the floor of the Senate on Tuesday to explain why his panel intends to issue a subpoena to Administrator Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA is planning to submit written testimony for the committee's upcoming field hearing on the Gold King Mine disaster. But Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) insisted McCarthy show up in person to answer to the tribal communities that have been affected by the release of an estimated 3 million gallons of toxic waste.

“We’re holding this field hearing to do oversight on this catastrophe the EPA caused," said Barrasso, the chairman of the committee. “This is not optional for them. This is not supposed to be another chance for EPA to show how uncooperative and unhelpful it can be."

The field hearing takes place next Friday, which happens to be Earth Day. Earlier this month, The Daily Caller, a conservative-leaning media organization, suggested McCarthy might go to New York City that day for the high-profile signing of the climate change agreement that was negotiated in Paris, France.

Sen. John Barrasso on YouTube: EPA Response After Mine Spill is Unacceptable

An EPA spokesperson wouldn't tell the Associated Press whether or not McCarthy plans to attend the event. But if she goes there, Barrasso said it would show that the Cabinet member doesn't have her "priorities straight."

"On Earth Day – of all days – we need to hear from the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency," Barrasso said.

McCarthy did appear before the committee last September to discuss her agency's response to the disaster. At the hearing, which took place in Washington, D.C., leaders of the Navajo Nation and the Southern Ute Tribe said they waited days to hear from the EPA as the toxic waste from the abandoned mine in Colorado entered the waters on their reservations.

McCarthy also went to the Navajo Nation to meet with tribal leaders and observe conditions on the San Juan River. Farmers and ranchers on the reservation depend on the river for their livelihoods but they had to stop using the water due to the contamination.

The committee is holding a business meeting on Wednesday to consider the subpoena. If authorized, it would be the first since the Jack Abramoff scandal more than a decade ago.

The field hearing itself will take place on 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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