By Jim Kouri
While President Barack Obama intensifies his rhetoric denigrating Republicans and anyone else who opposes his nuclear pact with Iran, he remained silent about one of his favorite agencies being accused of harming the American environment. On Monday afternoon, Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper reacted to a toxic water incident perpetrated by Obama’s enlarged Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency that frequently refers cases to the Department of Justice for prosecution of polluters, according to numerous media outlets.
The EPA has been accused of unilaterally increasing its power over private-sector organizations and citizens with the blessings of the White House, while not holding itself up to the same standards they insist others uphold. It is also being criticized for arming some of its personnel with heavy fire-power and equipment that’s usually found in police forces or military units.
Gov. Hickenlooper declared a state of emergency for Colorado in response to an EPA-caused toxic water spill that emanated from an abandoned gold mine that poured into a river and turned its water orange. EPA officials on Sunday admitted it caused about three-million gallons of waste which they originally reported five days ago as being one-million gallons of toxic waste.
However, these same EPA officials said they are not certain how extensive the spill has increased health risks to humans, fish and other aquatic life in the contaminated river. The governor’s emergency order allows the use of about a half-million dollars from the current Colorado disaster fund to pay for the response. Some of the taxpayer money will be used by towns and small businesses to cope with the damage directly or indirectly caused by the huge spill.
“This is the same hard-nosed agency that makes life a nightmare for American farmers, landowners, corporate executives and local governments, and now we find an EPA that isn’t talking much now that they are the alleged perpetrators of an environmental disaster and perhaps a criminal act,” said John Kubisty a former law enforcement officer and a corporate safety and security director who has dealt with the EPA and OSHA.
“We will work closely with the EPA to continue to measure water quality as it returns to normal, but also to work together to assess other mines throughout the state to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the governor said in a statement dated August 10.
But the Navajo Reservation, which relies on the contaminated river, released a statement that was less cordial to the EPA than the Colorado governor’s statement: “[W]e intend to make sure the Navajo Nation recovers every dollar it spends cleaning up this mess and every dollar it loses as a result of injuries to our precious Navajo natural resources. We have instructed [the] Navajo Nation Department of Justice to take immediate action against the EPA to the fullest extent of the law to protect Navajo families and resources.”
Higher arsenic levels detected
Last Wednesday, an EPA-supervised cleanup crew breached what they termed a “debris dam” that over a long period of time accumulated in the Gold King Mine which had closed down operations in 1924. Wednesday’s sudden breach of the debris led to the release of a yellow-orange muddy substance that suddenly leaked into the Animas River.
Testing of the water collected for chemicals showed much higher than normal levels of arsenic, lead and other metals. In Durango, Colorado, the mayor assured people the water was safe to drink because the city shut off its intake valve from the Animas.
“The river for us is an integral part of our community,” Colorado State Sen. Ellen Roberts said on Monday. “It’s where people get married. People do their own private ceremonies along there. It’s our daily life.”
From a legal stand point, past accusations of EPA management incompetence is making this spill a political toxin for Obama and his EPA. “[The]EPA helps regulated entities meet federal requirements, and holds entities legally accountable for environmental violations,” states Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, on the government website.
This latest Obama administration scandal is angering big-government opponents who are already attacking the agency for acting as “enforcers” for President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and his proposals for combating global warming without going to Congress for passage of appropriate laws. “President Obama likes to take action with his ‘phone and pen’ but when things go wrong he scurries about looking for a scapegoat. The EPA is his problem: he increased its size, its budget, its power and he selected its administrator,” said former police officer and park ranger Selena Cruz.
Jim Kouri, CPP, the fifth Vice President and Public Information Officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, has served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.