Leaders of the Navajo Nation went to Colorado almost immediately after the Gold King Mine spill on August 4, 2015. Photo: Navajo Nation OPVP
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Trump administration excludes Navajo Nation in review of Gold King Mine claims

The new leader of the Environmental Protection Agency is criticizing the Obama administration for the Gold King Mine disaster but won't change course when it comes to the Navajo Nation.

The tribe is seeking about $160 million in damages in connection with the spill on August 4, 2015. But since the tribe has a lawsuit pending in federal court, the EPA won't be reconsidering those claims, the Associated Press reported.

The clarification came after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt visited the site of the disaster in Colorado on Friday. A press release noted that "neither the EPA Administrator at the time, Gina McCarthy, nor President Obama nor Vice President Biden, ever visited the site of the spill itself."

The account is correct -- McCarthy went to Colorado in the aftermath of the spill but did not tour the Gold King site. But she did visit the Navajo Nation to meet with tribal leaders on their own territory, which Pruitt did not do.

Ahead of the visit, Pruitt sent letters to claimants to inform them that he was reopening the review process. But neither the tribe, nor the state of New Mexico, are included because they are in court.

“A new review is paramount to ensure that those who have, in fact, suffered losses have a fair opportunity to have their claims heard,” Pruitt said in the press release on Friday.

The spill released about 3 million gallons of toxic waste into the San Juan River. The waste traveled downstream to the Navajo Nation, where residents, ranchers and farmers had to go without water for a period of time. They lost crops, livestock and other property as a result.

Like other entities affected by the disaster, the tribe filed an administrative claim with the EPA. It was denied during the final days of the Obama administration in January, The Denver Post reported at the time.

“The U.S. EPA poisoned our water and now are turning their backs,” President Russell Begaye said in a press release after the denial . “We are angered and appalled by this, but we will fight for what is right for the Navajo people and the Navajo Nation."

By that time, the tribe had already sued the EPA for the spill and sought to add the denial of the claims to the case. That's why the EPA says it can't review them again.

Read More on the Story:
EPA: No review of mine spill claims after state, tribe sued (AP 8/7)
New Mexico congressional delegation worries state, Navajo Nation will be left out of EPA’s new Gold King promises (The Denver Post 8/7)
Scott Pruitt says EPA “walked away” from Colorado after Gold King spill, commits to making Silverton clean-up a priority (The Denver Post 8/4)
EPA chief to reconsider mine waste spill payments (AP 8/4)

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