Environmental Justice? EPA blocks Navajo's access to mine disaster site, forced to walk

Testifying before Congress, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is questioned by Representative Jason Chaffetz as to why Navajo leaders were denied access to the EPA's Gold King Mine disaster site, as the Navajo Nation is heavily reliant upon the water of the downstream tributary.

REPRESENTATIVE CHAFFETZ: "Let's go to the site visit because the President of the Navajo Nation wanted to visit the site and you denied him. You would not take him to that site. We quote, this is from the Navajo President, 'We requested a tour from the Environmental Protection Agency but faced immediate resistance. Staff indicated they would only take us to the confluence of the Cement Creek and the Animas River.' He goes on and on, but you did not allow them, the EPA would not allow them to go to the site. Why not?"

ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: "As far as my understanding, and I wasn't at the site of the mine, is that it was a dangerous location, and we brought them as close as they could, and they actually seemed at that point in time to be very satisfied that they were being protected and getting an opportunity to be at the site --"

REPRESENTATIVE CHAFFETZ: "So you were doing it to protect them?"

ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: "Many times that is a -- you yourself saw the site in the video. There was damage that occurred, keeping people safe, but there is no way in which we have kept people from going as close to the site as they could safely get, and the Navajo, in fact, went there."

REPRESENTATIVE CHAFFETZ: "They did not get there. That's the testimony. Quote, 'We finally convinced them to take us within a half mile of the point of release. We walked the rest of the way to the point of the release. There we saw completely unblocked mine at it with estimated 550 gallon per minute flow of bright opaque orange' and he goes on and on. You did not do that. You didn't call them. You didn't communicate with them. You told the media before you told them. They wanted to go to the site. You wouldn't do that. And, then you have the gall to hand out standard form 95 and walk along the river and try to get them to do waiver forms and you only did that after the President said, 'We are going to sue the EPA?'"

House Natural Resources Committee
September 17, 2015