With EPA under Fire for Non-Response to Tribes, Senate on Committee Indian Affairs Chairman to Subpoena EPA Head for Field Hearing

San Juan River polluted as result of Gold King Mine; Navajo Nation not happy with EPA's lack of response.

San Juan River polluted as result of Gold King Mine; Navajo Nation not happy with EPA’s lack of response.

Published April 6, 2016  

WASHINGTON — In a news release issued on Wednesday, it was disclosed Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) would work to issue a subpoena to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to compel her attendance at a Committee on Indian Affairs field hearing in Arizona on “Examining EPA’s Unacceptable Response to Indian Tribes.”

The field hearing is scheduled to take place in Phoenix, Arizona, on April 22, 2016.

A representative from the EPA was invited to provide testimony at the field hearing, and the invitation was declined.

The news release did not specifically mention what tribes are receiving a lack of adequate response from the EPA. However, the Navajo Nation is not happy with the response by the EPA after the August 5, 2015 spill at the Gold King Mine in Colorado that contaminated the Animus River and eventually flowed to the San Juan River, entering the Navajo Nation.

Animus River was contaminated on August 5, 2015 and flowed into San Juan River on Navajo Nation

Animus River was contaminated on August 5, 2015 and flowed into San Juan River on Navajo Nation

Soon after the spill, the EPA took responsibility for a sub-contractor’s action that contaminated the river. Since that time, there has been little action by the EPA to assist the Navajo Nation with any funds that were spent to help provide clean drinking water and cleanup.

In an interview two weeks ago with Native News Online, Navajo Nation President expressed his disappointment with the EPA and the Obama White House for lack of attention to the matter.

“The EPA needs to step up. They said in hearings to both the Senate and House joint hearing that they were responsible for what happened. None of it has happened. We have not received a dollar from the EPA. The monies the Navajo Nation has spent has not been compensated yet,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye stated.

Notice of the field hearing was issued on March 28, 2016.

At a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing today in Washington, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said:

 “It is my understanding that the EPA has decided not to send a representative to this field hearing. The EPA’s response is unacceptable. It is a violation of our obligation to protect the interests of Native Americans and their tribes and EPA must be present at this hearing. I respectfully request that the committee issue a subpoena for EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to appear at the field hearing scheduled for April 22, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.”

Chairman Barrasso agreed to the request by stating:

Senator McCain, you are correct: The EPA has declined to send anyone to the field hearing. The field hearing you referred to was requested by you on behalf of the Navajo Nation and it is a top priority of this committee. This is not a partisan issue, it is a Native American issue and I will work with you and others on this committee to issue a subpoena for Administrator Gina McCarthy to appear. She is the one in charge at the EPA. The Senate has confirmed her nomination with the understanding that the EPA would be responsive to Congress, and this is not being responsive.”

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  1. Richard Smith 4 years ago
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