Sunday, January 10, 2016 by: Daniel Barker
Editor Dustin Bond MC News
(NaturalNews) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) performed its duties aggressively this year, handing out a number of prison sentences and multi-million dollar fines to polluters.
However, the agency failed to apply its enforcement techniques to its own employees and the contractors responsible for a massive toxic spill caused during the botched Gold King Mine cleanup in Colorado – which poisoned rivers and waterways in three states and also within the Navajo Nation.
From The Daily Caller:
“Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcers helped convict 185 Americans of environmental crimes this year, with each of these eco-convicts getting sentenced to eight months in prison on average for crimes ranging from biofuel fraud to illegally removing asbestos.
“EPA enforcement data for 2015 shows the agency opened 213 environmental cases which resulted in 185 people convicted and sentenced to 129 years in prison. EPA has been opening fewer cases in recent years to focus more on ‘high impact’ cases.”
The agency was responsible for levying more than $88 million in fines, $112 million in restitution and $4 billion in court ordered environmental projects.
Record settlements against private companies
The biggest of these cases was against Duke Energy, which was charged with violating the Clean Water Act for spilling coal ash into Virginia and North Carolina rivers. The guilty verdict resulted in the largest settlement ever paid under the Clean Water Act: $68 million in fines and $34 million for environmental projects in both affected states.
So, how can the EPA justify its zealous prosecution of companies like Duke Energy, when its own environmental screw-ups go unpunished?
“Republican lawmakers were quick to criticize EPA for not taking any disciplinary action against contractors or employees involved in the Colorado mine spill. Lawmakers noted that while EPA drags its feet, a private company, like Duke, would have been fined quickly if it had spilled mine waste.
“The Department of the Interior’s outside review of the spill incident found EPA could have avoided a blowout if it had taken precautions agency workers had used while opening other sealed Colorado mines.”
EPA whitewashes its own mistakes
Not only could the blowout have been avoided, there is evidence that the agency was warned beforehand that such an incident might occur – and even worse, it now appears that the agency may be attempting to “taint” the investigation, according to Representatives Rob Bishop of Utah and Louie Gohmert of Texas, both Republicans.
Bishop and Gohmert wrote to the inspector general of the EPA:
“[T]he Committee on Natural Resources is troubled by the EPA’s disclosure last week that it had recently interviewed two material witnesses to the EPA’s activities at Gold King Mine.
“Specifically, the Committee is concerned that the EPA’s interview did not follow best investigative practices and may have interfered with the OIG’s ongoing investigation.”
Meanwhile, the EPA continues in its efforts to whitewash the incident, according to Paul Driesen of the Heartland Institute. “Congress and state legislatures should further investigate the Gold King disaster, and compel witnesses to testify under oath,” he wrote. “They should also improve relevant laws, ensure that agency personnel are truly qualified to do their tasks, and hold agency incompetents and miscreants accountable.”
And as the Gold King Mine cleanup efforts drag on, suicides are on the increase in the Navajo Nation – a fact which many blame on the spill.
It seems abundantly clear that the EPA is unwilling to take full responsibility for their role in the Gold King Mine spill, even though the incident continues to have a devastating impact on the environment and the people living in the region.
And as it doggedly pursues “high profile” cases, while levying record fines against private companies, the agency apparently believes that its own environmental mistakes are somehow forgivable and that it should not be held accountable for them.
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