[guest post by JVW]
Earlier today the Environmental Polluting Agency — oh wait, I guess that’s supposed to be Environmental Protection Agency — along with the their enablers and co-conspirators in the Justice Department decided to deny claims from parties hurt by the pollution of the Animas River in the Four Corners area when an EPA clean-up team triggered a spill of wastewater from the abandoned Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. A total of 73 claims have been filed, but the EPA/DOJ team has rejected them all under the principle of sovereign immunity.
I happened to be in Durango when the mine spill occurred. The three million gallons of wastewater let loose into the river included lead, copper, iron, aluminum, and other typical mining debris. The pictures were published far and wide, but here is an great juxtaposition of what the Animas looked like before and after the spill:
I can assure you that it looked far worse in person. I first heard about the spill at a Durango brewery the night it happened, but I was still unprepared for just how awful the river looked for miles and miles in the next morning’s sunlight. Already at that point the locals were discussing how the fall whitewater rafting tourism business was hopelessly screwed, and I later heard that Durango suffered through a very unprosperous autumn.
The EPA/DOJ axis has helpfully declared that affected parties can seek relief from courts, or they can petition Congress to pass legislation making them whole. This follows on the heels of the decision by the U.S. Attorney in Denver last October not to seek the prosecution of the EPA official deemed to be the most responsible for the disaster. The U.S. Attorney declared that the matter of the official’s sanction should be left up to the Agency, and one does not have to be a cynic to guess that the “punishment,” such that it is, will be an early retirement at full pension or a lateral move within another governmental agency.
Unluckily for the EPA, their spill strongly affected two Hillary Clinton states, Colorado and New Mexico, and it infringed upon a certified preferred victims group, Native Americans. So the Democrats, who otherwise can be counted on to exculpate any bureaucratic malfeasance by a government agency, now have to actually demand a modicum of accountability from their staunchest backers.
A helpful suggestion for Congress: the EPA has an $8.2 billion proposed budget for 2017. Congress should propose to take $600 million from the budget for each of the next two years in order to pay the $1.2 billion in claims that have already been filed.