tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN September 17, 2015 9:30pm-11:01pm EDT
report and with those conclusions that the region with assessments for those sites across the country the epa would implement all recommendations from the report and share the findings without external reviewers. in addition, the u.s. department of interior is leading the independent assessment of what led to the gold king mine incidents the independent review is to provide that epa with an analysis that took place including the contributing causes. internal and external reviews will help reform day e pay for assessments and
construction and removal projects. one priority is to keep the public informed of the impacts from the release the epa closely coordinated with our federal partners with officials in colorado, navajo nation and the ute tribes to keep them apprised of results which are routinely posted on our website. these do indicate that they have returned to pre-event conditions and the decision makers about lifting water restrictions along the animas river and san juan rivers. finally i want to clarify the epa was working with the state of colorado to take action to a the gold king mine for a potential of a catastrophic release in the ongoing water quality impact
caused by the discharges into the upper animas river watershed. approximately 330 million gallons of contaminated water was discharged in the water shed each year that is 100 times more than the estimated release from the mine on august 5th. it continues to work with the state of the colorado to address the significant discharges better impacting the waterways. it is important to note the work program has successfully cleaned up more than 1,100 sites to successfully respond to the oversight for thousands of removal actions to protect human health and the environment that respects the longstanding commitment
and the environment we will continue to pursue at the administration's request for the abandoned mine to cover the cost of cleanup of the sites. all of the affected residents and members of the southern ute tribes can be sure epa has and will continue to take responsibility to help insure that gold king mine previous is cleaned up i will be happy to answer any questions the committee may have. >> i now recognize the gentleman from utah for his questions. >> ion still disappointed you are alone on that panel but thank you. are you aware the federal agencies are required under the endangered species act to review any discretionary
action to see if it affects the species or habitat and if it determines it is affected they must consult with fish and wildlife service? >> i am aware. >> did they consult with fish and wildlife on the gold king mine prior to the disaster? >> the epa had no reason to consult with them because we did not plan to take action that would have discharged that amount of material into the creek. >> so you a summary did not anticipate every these. i'm glad. actually did have some communication last night but your assertion is you did not anticipate the release to affect downstream endangered species so therefore you did not consult with fish and wildlife. >> because of the threat of the release. >> you did not contact them because you did not anticipate that.
>>. >> we were there to actually prevent a release because that is the reason we were working the state of colorado at the site to depressurized. >> i appreciate that but the fact is you did not talk to fish and wildlife even though it is the of all. >> i'm sorry. the final save and planned the rapid response services prepared by a the environmental restoration for epa region eight september 4, 2014 as a section entitled spills were leaks are releases and it states locate the source stop the flow safely. for region eight dated july july 25, 2014 conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages to
cause the release of a large volume of contaminated water from inside the mind which contains concentrated heavy metal. clearly these documents demonstrate that in fact, you did not only anticipate the release but also of the major blowout to get epa consulted note the fda -- fish of all life under the fish and wildlife act is under criminal and civil penalties for knowingly violating this act? >> i am not trying to argue with you but the stately your reading indicates the restated to the contractor so there is no action taken to cause the release but instead we were there to prevent its. >> that is wonderful but the fact is you were anticipating the is
happening the law says you have to contact fish and wildlife and consult with them but you did not and you have over one year to accomplish that. >> i was there to take action to read these this material we would not be standing here today. it is an attempt space was a considerable risk. >> that is sweet i know you feel terrible but the bottom line is your document say you anticipated a potential major blowout. dell losses if you plan for that you have to contact fish and wildlife and until last night you did not that is what the law requires there are criminal and civil penalties to violate that law which you violated. i don't care your goal it could be no bullet doesn't make a difference you violated the law.
the standards you make everybody else lives buy you do it with impunity. are you aware the san juan river there is a designated critical habitat for fish that would be violated for an agency to cause adverse modifications by spilling these waters? you realize that area does exist? >> i was not aware until you just said it. >> have you or your agency discuss the epa failure to consult with fish and wildlife service prior to this hearing? >> we do not believe we don't think we have a failure to not -- notify because the actions we were taken were intended to stop the pullout. clearly there was a problem at the site that is overlooking to the device. >> ben fischer of interpretation of the law and that is not what it says.
the communications you said you made. i'm sorry. i am over. i yield back. >> recognizing the gentleman from arizona. >> administrator getting back to the subject of the hearing of gold king mine the roll the epa had and what it has a this point, if it was not at the gold king mine at all what would have happened to the water released? >> our reasons for being there is the degraded water quality of 300 million gallons going into a the animas river overtime.
it was anticipated there was a serious potential for a blowout working with colorado and teeeighteen to address to resolve the issue of significant concern to those communities. >> the affected native nations that they have legitimately raised floor notification per car with the effect of the tribal land. your response with the rapid and necessary notification. the agency did change the
notification in procedure to effectively get to the state of colorado that day to insure that before they arrived for any drinking water is the ability to rural medicate that this bill was contained that was good the following day we completed dedications to downstream it was on the fifth we completed the notifications on this sixth. is the rapid? i argue we should have done better it would be more appropriate to reach everybody the same day. every trying to do better yes harvey schmidt and notification to go back and how do we improve that you tested frequently and we
could have done a lot better but we could beat them all playdown to protect the a drinking water supplies in the irrigation channels as best we could. >> the hard rock pact has a provision to create a fund to curb -- cleanup the hard-rock mine sites. this provision is endorsed by the administration to be included in the president's budget. the funds necessary how does that help to address the problem particularly across the country?
>> it would help significantly to be supportive of the president's initiative budgets and had we think it is incredibly important to have resources associated with this. we're talking about legacy dash. for those principles and faulty and to justin and colorado alone we have 23,000 with the upper teeeight t there is no ability to effectively address this even though the state worked hard and that epa tried to help as well so this is a significant problem curve to degrade water quality. >> there is an implication by the majority as a direct
statement if a private company had done this the response would have been much stronger and more severe is retreating is solved differently than a private company in the same position? >> no, sir. we would have required any company doing a response action to keep their folks say fifth the spill occurred into clean it downstream to take responsibility to make sure over time those long-term consequences are dressed. that is exactly a what the epa is doing taking full responsibility for actions. >> if you had to give yourself a letter grade question mark i won't do that for all i'm doing the best i can and. >> you said it has close
accord made with federal partners with utah and new mexico and with of ute nations to keep them apprised of the results i'm highly offended. sitting behind you in the frozen president of the navajo nation of one to read something spelled his testimony these are his words. >> to begin with the epa to late notification of this bill to the navajo nation it happened on the morning of the fifth but the nation was not informed until august 6 a full day later not even by the epa but by the state of new mexico it took almost two full days to notify us. is a violation of the government relationship between the federal government and how to answer that? >> have great respect. >> no.
you have two days before you called them. >> the call from new mexico was the of way that we do these notifications. >> working closely it is totally misleading. i have to keep building that epa also demonstrated complete lack of transparency eight tiers say the media was receiving iteration faster than the navajo nation. and media source is reported it confirmed parsnip on august 7th but the epa still had not reported are said to the nation even by august 9th. what is your excuse for that? >> i have indicated the notifications could have been better but. >> know you did not. you said you were working
closely with them you did not say you screwed up on the communication. >> i said we did take it day. i wish it was early. >> it took today's. >> we had time to work with them ever since. >> i have a problem it was not to the navajo nation. >> i did not make any calls. >> that is the problem. that is the problem. you did not make a copy of the president of the navajo nation you personally don't get involved. one of the worse bills we ever had. >> i called. >> when? >> alleges site on the 11th and 12th. >> he pointed to visit the site and you deny him and did not take him to that site. this is from the nominal
president we've requested 82 were from the epa but faced immediate resistance staff indicated there would only take us to the confluence and it goes on and on but you did not allow them to go to the site. why not? >> as far as my understanding, i was not at the site but it was a dangerous location we brought them as close as we could and at that time they seem to be satisfied ever being protected to get an opportunity to be at the site. >> you we're doing it to protect them? >> many times, you saw the video the damage with keeping people saved there is no way we have kept people from going as close as they could safely get but then navaho went there. >> they did not. we finally convinced them to
take us with then have fun while we walked the rest of the way then resaw the of mine with estimated 550 gallons per minute flow and it goes on and on. you did not do that you did not call them or communicate you told the media before them. you would not go to the site did you have the gall to handle standard form 95 along the river to get them to do with performs only after the president said we are going to sue the epa. why? >> it is my understanding we did not hand out the forms. we have a long discussion following that. >> you are not telling the truth. '' it was quick to dispatch staff to the committees to handle standard format administrator mccarthy to
encourage members to fill out to expedite settlement of their claims of the federal tort claims act to obtain these from members of the navajo nation but only after i announced that we would be suing the epa'' do you deny your people were handing out this form? >> i do deny we were going around to get anybody to sign these forms based on the information i had that is not correct. did resupply forms to the navajo nation leadership? absolutely because it is part of an opportunity for individual claims to be made but not a settlement or a release form but we walked through those issues and there is a much better understanding of the process that the federal government has established the am hoping we can utilize your ability to recognize the damage done to fully account
that to compensate for that. >> standard 495 ice certified claman covers only from damages from above and agree to accept set amount. >> that is a settlement agreement. again you were totally misleading and out of touch and appropriate -- inappropriate in this instance. my time has expired. the gentleman from pennsylvania. >> and would like to give the administration one dash did minister to answer your question. >> refers to a final settlement this is an application to begin the process that can be added to and amended throughout the entire process a final settlement requires a settlement the claim it actually needs to side of it is the ability to get us started is not a final document in any way.
>> thank you for that. i will switch gears acid mine is an - - and the country is 65 million gallons of acid mine run off everyday. here we talk about 3 million gallons there is 65 million every dave running into the river compared to the 38 million of the animas river spill i will show you pictures on a typical day. this is the old borehole that emit 65 million gallons of drainage into the susquehanna river that finds its way down to the chesapeake bay.
any spill in our rivers is important and needs to be addressed but after receiving some my attention was the cartoon from the political cartoonist that said 38 million gallons accidentally dumped into the colorado animas river it is called an environmental disaster then on the right side ratios then illustration of buffalo whole a 65 million gallons per day of the assets it might run off and it says around here we call it tuesday afternoon. we understand the problem the director explained to amy in northeastern pennsylvania carted counties
all have profound injury did issues for thousands of miles of streams impacted many of which are totally a default rate of aquatic life. nationally there are 500,000 abandoned mines that scar the nation to pollute the water ways and it is maya standing the epa estimated to clean them up would cost $50 billion. i welcome this new found interest in water quality the kidvid the enormous sum sum, administrator mccarthy homage to mining companies contribute? >> then the hard rock industry is very difficult to estimate that the dawn of a legacy cites the contribution is close to zero. >>, a trend toward japan
realties? >> none that i am aware of. >> now that we are establishing that they are not contributing to clean up their own mess water the sources of funding that you have for a cleanup? to read the federal agencies have some resources they're not as significant as the challenges we are facing. we do have an emergency response fund nebulized but that is for the entire country we have to prioritize to use resources wisely. >> what can congress do to help the epa clean up the mine? >> the proposal the president what fourth to establish what we do similar to the coal mining industry utilize to redress the al legacy sites is appropriate. it would be based on the polluter pays principle and give significant funds for
us to address these challenges. >> for the abandoned coal mines it comes from the reclamation fees. correct? >> that's correct. >> coal companies to pay royalties that contributed to abandon to mine cleanup. remember that nl will expire in the coming years and i want to take this moment to urge congress to turn its attention to reauthorize the a.m. else we continue the important work to reduce the impact of abandoned mines. thank you. >> i ask unanimous consent standard form 95. >> without objection. the gentleman from texas. >> ms. mccarthy the epa documents internally said there is no documentation of
flow available before july 2005. when it was discharging 42 gallons per minute than in september 2005 was up to 135 gallons per minute and 2006 it increased 314 gallons (200)920-1240 there rate to drop all the way down at 13 gallons per minute december 2014 and according to your staff who gave us documentation on september 8, a post blowout discharges about 600 gallons per minute is there any new data since then that changes the 600 gallons per minute discharge rate? >> i think i have a slightly lower figure but i am happy to provide you with that.
went to speak without all the data at my fingertips. >> you came here anteater and though few have made it worse or better since september 8? >> clearly maya understanding is it is on the order of 550 gallons per minute if that is your asking. >> when we talk about the sledge the facts are that before the blowout the discharge rate was 70 gallons per minute minute, 100,800 gallons per day than now 60550 in eight or nine times what it was. that is with the epa
candling. ms. mccarthy im blown away you indicate you did not anticipate that this type of pullout could occur. >> i did not say that. >> say you said you know, that it could occur but not prepared for it? >> we went in because of the concern was raised by us and other professionals there was potentially a pressurized blockage. retrying to take action to mitigate that. . .
you come in here and tell us that we worked with the state of colorado. it does not sound that way once again. the result is damage to the environment. since you have been at the epa, how many people, industries, companies have been charged with criminal violations? >> i don't have that number, sir. >> you are charged plenty of people,people, right? >> we have conducted enforcement activities that we should. >> how many are under investigation right now for this massive discharge? >> am unaware of any criminal investigation, sir. >> i guess there is the rub, isn't it? your agency is above the law , and all of the damage you do to the environment, and you want to be in charge of all of the waters of the united states, and you cannot even figure out to
get ready for a possible discharge. i yield back. >> we are holding our socially accountable, sir. >> thank the gentleman. >> weight. she added -- >> hold on. the gentleman's time has expired. we will we will now recognize the gentleman from california for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for being here, ms. miss mccarthy. a lot of questions, 1st of all, in my subcommittee i was not privy to any information from epa, and that i hold concerning. how many of the company that you knew of that were mining whether gold, silver, or coal are foreign-owned? >> i do not have that. >> do you have any way of
being able to tell this committee? some of those companies are foreign-owned they are not being made responsible for anything they leave behind. they leave it to the us taxpayer to pick up any kind of remediation, and that needs to be part of the answer that we look at. and the rest of the united states, and i am concerned about what happened, but what about the rest of the nation that have these hundreds, maybe thousands of mines? how many of those are close to blowout? >> epa is only involved in actually a small percentage of those. the authority to look has spread among a number of agencies. >> can you break it down so that you have an idea what the problem really is? >> we can do our best, but i can tell you the ones we
follow are the ones on the national priorities list and the ones where we work with states to address what we consider to be an imminent threat for a need for emergency response. the apparatus was in that category. >> i would like to see if you could answer this for the full committee. fish and wildlife endangered species is near and dear to a lot of us, but your budgeting, how much budget do you require to be able to do -- maybe look at avoiding what happened? >> we have an environmental fund that allows us to tap that. >> how much is that? >> fiscal years 2015 superfund remediation action budget is $501 million.
>> does it have to be on the superfund? >> no, it does not. this is remedial action we need to take. >> you are currently working on how many minds to address the issue? >> i'm sorry. i will have to get back to you. >> that would answer some of the questions i have. how many other agencies? how many other agencies are involved or should be involved besides fish and wildlife, national institute of health for determining the status of the health concerns? cdc? the bureau of indian affairs,affairs, what role do they play and notifying native american tribes? is it immediate, do you work
with them or get them involved immediately and test them with doing the outreach? and how many other areas are concerning in terms of contamination, cancerous, lead, arsenic, uranium, what are the hardheart and minerals they're that will affect the health of our nation? >> at least 161,000 abandoned mines. and we know we have experience looking at these mines and involve sudden releases like periodic mine discharges. there are a lot of them. >> i am running out of time, but my colleague in pennsylvania to my if there is a continuous release, is
that one of the areas that epa may look at to help address the issue? >> the challenge is really, there are a lot of these issues. i do not know whether that is on the npl. >> shaking his head no behind you. >> on a state wants us to come in and work with them -- >> only at the request of the state? >> we make priorities depending upon what we find out and are asked to do, but thedo, but the challenges that it is limited and does not take care of the long-term problem. >> what do we need to do? >> the gentlewoman's time is expired. i now recognize the gentleman from florida for five minutes. >> thank you. let me pick up with the gentleman from texas left off on the issue of accountability.
if a private company or corporation or individual dumped 7,500 gallons of toxic chemical into a natural waterway, wouldn't there be a penalty? wouldn't you hold them accountable? >> it all depends upon the circumstances, sir. >> you would investigate. >> the cleanup, but whether or not there is a penalty would depend upon the circumstance. >> but someone would be held accountable, responsible? >> yes. >> and you do that? >> yes. >> one of the frustrations that members of congress and the american people have is holding agencies accountable. you have been they're since july of 2013, is that correct? >> yes. >> you are in charge of the agency. >> yes.
>> is there an ses individual below you or a deputy that also would be responsible? looking at this matter and overseeing it? >> i have an assistant administrator. >> okay. >> who is that? >> maddie stennis. >> is that sean mcgrath? >> that's correct. >> and you have an on scene epa -- >> on scene coordinator. >> who is that? >> i do not know the individual's name. >> and you have conducted some preliminary investigation. >> yes. >> everything we see,see, it looks like there was a mistake. you have a contractor, to. who is being held accountable based upon the information you have so far?
>> one of the reasons why we asked doi to do an independent investigation was to make sure someone independently looked at that and provided information so that we could follow up to see if there was a lack of judgment or oversight. >> that is not complete? >> it will be completed in october. >> i want you to tell the committee and report back who is held responsible. i responsible. i have reviewed some of the bonuses given to different agencies in the past, at least historically epa has paid some of the biggest performance award. in fact, some of your ses class folks, 64 percent of them got bonuses. i want to know if there are recommendations pending for bonuses for any of these individuals and have that made part of the record. in the next 30 days anything pending, and for the long-term record i want you
to report back to the committee the findings and who is held accountable. i think that is the least that we can do, and then what action is taken to those individuals who have done this damage to the environment and caused untold damage to the people sitting behind you who we are going to hear from. the other thing is the estimate of the cost forgetting this all back to regular order. do you have any estimate? >> in terms of what it would take, i no we have spent some more upwards of 10 million command we expected to go up considerably over time. the challenge is to look at the upper animus river. while there may be some continued discharge from the gold king mine, there continues to be a much larger --
>> $10 million. >> that was just the immediate response. >> this is a reasonable requesta reasonable request that we hold you and others accountable who are responsible for this. it can be based upon the independent findings, but we are looking at 2 million and cost and disruption to many parties. is that correct? >> i fully recognizei fully recognize and expect to be held accountable which is the job of this committee. i fully respect that and will cooperate in any way i can. >> finally, we have pending court issues dealing with the redefinition of navigable waters. what is the status briefly of that? is the rule going into places? is it on hold, and what are you doing? >> the role is being implemented except i believe in the 13 states where there was a decision by a judge to issue a preliminary
injunction. so inand all but those 13 states it is being fully implemented. >> thank you. >> we now recognize the gentleman from missouri for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me ask administrator mccarthy, most of the cleanup of hazardous waste from abandoned and an active minds like gold king is carried out by the epa and state government agency. the hazardous waste was caused by the activities of mining companies, not epa or state government, is that correct? >> that is correct. >> it was the mining companies that made the mess, be ones cleaning it up. you mine owners or operators have any legal obligation to clean up the pollution that
they leave behind? >> it is my understanding that there is some liability in some cases, but consistently and these legacy sites the owners are absent from the discussion. >> why is epa involved at all in the cleanup of an active minds like gold king? >> we were there because of the concern of a potential blowout and the concern of the water quality that was being consistently degraded from the mine seepage entering into the cement creek and the river. the cement creek literally has no fish whatsoever, and for miles downstream the fish population has almost gone down to zero. epa has been looking at this as a potential npl site, superfund site, in addition
to coordinating with the state and local stakeholders to address the challenge short of issuing a decision to put it on the npl site. >> there are constant pollutants seeping into the river from the minds that has been going on for years? >> large discharges. no question. our hopeour hope was that we could continue to work together and get that quality shifted into another direction and continually improve instead of degraded. >> and of course today's hearing is to blame the epa for the callous disregard of mining companies not being good stewards of our environment and i think it is a farce we are conducting here with you. i understand there is a dedicated funding for mine
waste cleanup derived from fees collected on each ton of coal mined in this country. is there a similar funding source for hard rock mine remediation? >> there is not, but that is what the president's fiscal year 16 budget is suggesting should happen. >> are mine owners financing the cleanup of the mine waste that pollutes the rivers for decades after the mine ceases operations? >> in most cases, no, sir. >> do you believe the president's proposal if enacted will help provide necessary resources for cleaning up abandoned mines? >> i do, sir. >> it is about time that we as a congress get serious about responsible parties. and who is responsible for making this mess and cleaning it up.
the same thing with radioactive waste left all over the landscape. no one wants to take responsibility for it. yet you want to dump on the epa today? we should be ashamed of ourselves. we should be ashamed of what we are doing in this committee today. the current owner of gold king mine told cnn in august , i have been predicting the situation would continue to get worse and worse. i 1st saw disaster, and that has been borne out. well, why are taxpayers responsible for cleaning up abandoned mines while owners can sit back and do nothing? i mean, that is the question that we need to be asking as a committee.
why do they not have any responsibility when they made the mess? and, you know, we all have a responsibility to be good stewards of the environment, but in this case we let that one party off. i yield back my time. >> i think thei think the gentleman, and i hope he has the guts to stand here and asked the president of the navajo nation for what we are doing is a farce. >> we need to clean this up and stop pointing fingers. >> we will see if you asked the navajo nation. >> we will now recognize the gentleman from louisiana for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. mccarthy, and louisiana we have a saying, the chef should occasionally taste her o. what do i mean by that?
i want to bring up a different but connected issue. are you familiar with the minden issue relative to the epa handled out of dallas? >> yes, i am. >> there was a be explosion in 2012 as a result of a propellant, and explosive that accumulated over 16,000 16,000 pounds, and it was a lack of oversight by the u.s. army over this private company that allow this to happen. we have the problemhad the problem with how we will get rid of this 15 million pounds. of course epa became involved, but we were shocked that the epa 1st of all, said, well, we are not sure. the local stable probably have to pay for it. we finally got money from the superfund. then after
analysis of the epa said that we will just burn it in the open which means all of these toxic -- toxic substances are going into the ground, air, and water. now think back to the coal industry which has been severely hampered if not shut down because of co2 emissions, which certainly is not as toxic has arsenic or led. coal-fired plants being shut down. now the waters of the us, but i was shocked, and the local community was shocked when the epa came in and said, we see nothing wrong with open burn of 15 million poa propellant. wewe pushed back on it and had many hearings locally and finally got the epa to back down and allow closed burning which is a more costly procedure. it seems to me ironic that the epa, which can provide huge fines on private industry and individuals can
put people in jail through criminal activities of pollution and would be so cavalier in this case. in fact, only because of pushback from the community did we get the epa to do the right thing. the epa was clearly trying to take a shortcut and avoid the cost. if you look at the situation the epa allowed this toxic spill, this water now in our environment that will never be completely cleaned up. i guess what i am saying is, it seems like to me there is a double standard. the epa does not hold itself to the same standards you hold individuals and industry itself too. >> let me respond on minden. i could not be more pleased with the outcome, and i
appreciate the way in which the state intervened, as well as the elected officials. >> yes. >> it was an option that was chosen by the dod, not an uncontrolled burn. i think we have ended up in aa much better place and won the community participated wonderfully well in. now, in terms of this effort , i want you to understand -- and i am sure that you do -- the epa's job was to try to support an effort to address what we knew was a likely inevitability of a blowout at that mine as well as knowing of the river was being damaged each and every day as a result of the mining. should this bill have occurred? no. only going to figure out whether we could have done something about it, done something different? we will find out. >> my question is that, private citizens, americans, companies are held to a high
standard, and the punishments are severe. but we are not hearing today of any punishments or even reduction in pay or firings that are going to occur because of this incompetency. that is the point i am making. yes, i know you are doing the best you can, but one agency after another has these responsibilities and broad powers that no single company has to inflict damage, to inflict severe punishment and penalties on americans. if we don't find anything within the agency where the decision-makers in people with the power have accountability. >> when a spell like this happens the accountability is for the person who needs to take responsibility for the spill to do so,
which we had. the 2nd level is how it happened and was activity that should have been done differently. is a criminal, civil, negligent, that is what we are looking at now. i will live with those consequences and appropriately take action. >> we want to hear who those decision-makers were in what happened. >> we now recognize that gentlewoman from massachusetts. >> this has not been a simple conversation for you. many questions have been raised. we are all dismayed to see the horrific -- the way in which the river was impacted. i happened tohappen to come from a district that was impacted by the industrial revolution were rivers run different colors depending
on the dive it wasdiet it was cast into them at the end of the manufacturing day obviously this bill warrants an investigation, but i think i have to give you credit for being willing to be here and answer appropriately the questions we all have. i want to thank you for that. it is somewhat disingenuous to compare this with the private spill. as we have heard, you all have proactively made a decision to investigate through the inspector general and epa and the bureau of reclamation's as well as doing an investigation. as you said, you will accept the outcome of that and take appropriate action. what is also different here is that this is a legacy site. mine operators who benefited from the various metals that were in those grounds have subsequently abandoned them and left and environmental
mess. we have a difficult time holding them accountable. you have said you were there because of concern with a blowout, possibility of a blowout, and the degraded water quality. he also noted there are 160,000 such abandoned mines in which these issues present the epa with the challenge of how best to fix them. you have also talked about that given that long list you create a national prioritya national priority list. i am curious i think that it would be helpful for you to explain how you prioritize given the vast number of minds that have the great potential to post such harm to our environment. >> we prioritize in a couple of different ways. we have factors that we consider. in this particular case we started in the mid- 90s
and suggesting that it be on the national priorities list. what we found was that the communities and states or getting together and insisted that they could do a good job at addressing the issue without taking that measure. theythey actually did a good job up until 2005. there was a turnaround in the river which meant we were getting more discharge. thatthat is why we were continuing to look at it as of 2008 to see if we should look at the upper creek as the section that we would articulate and look at for the national priorities list.list. out of that discussion came a collaborative effort with the state and that watershed group to take a look at what we could do. that is when the concern of
a blowout arose, and we started working on a work plan that was very public about what can be done to try to address that issue well people looked at the long-term challenge. challenge. that is the history of this site. it is a long one and obviously today not a successful one. >> how do the communities initiate interaction with the epa? what was the process? >> actually, we have been working with them since at least the mid- 90s. they pulled together this stakeholder group that was people who worked in the minds, public citizens, local leaders, state representatives, epa helped. it really became a collaborative effort knowing they had a large problem meant we had to work together, and that became the tone of the discussion. epa was not there to work as
a loan entity but to share ideas, bring experts to the table and work with folks in colorado and identify what work should happen. and that was the work plan we were working under at the time that the spill occurred. it was fully developed with everyone's input, public hearings. to the underestimate the potential of the spill, delete do something that we shouldn't? that is something the independent review will give a fresh eye to, but it was not because we did not try to work collaboratively. >> i think the gentlewoman. her time has expired. i now recognize the gentleman from michigan. >> thank you, chairman. administrator mccarthy, thank you for being here. let me get to something that i think is practical, especially since snowy whether, winter may, indeed,
becoming to this area soon. it is expected the snow and wintry conditions we will hit the area as soon as early october which will affect the testing, recovery, and remediation efforts, i assume. what steps are being taken to prepare for these conditions? >> one, looking at a long-range monitoring plan that we are about to put out and draftin draft to the groups that we are working within the area including state, local, county, and tribal officials and will hopefully get a plan agreed to that will consider the challenges we are facing. >> can you guarantee that you will not abandon the site during the winter? >> we will not abandon the site. secondly, we are looking at whether we need to enhance the treatment process right
at the site. that is not the full remediation that is needed, but we are looking at that in collaboration with state, local communities and tribes as well. >> how many other sites similar to the gold king is epa working at or involved with right now? >> first of all, i have actually issued a memo holding off on similar work until we see what went wrong >> from. >> from the site? >> from the site so that we can learn those lessons and understand what went wrong. my understanding is we have identified ten sites that have work put on hold that seems similar enough that we want to monitor the situation as long as there is not an imminent hazard. >> isn't it true that the contractor whose work caused or contributed to the
disaster is still working at the gold kingcase i'd? >> yes, that is true, sir. >> do you think the contractor who played such a huge role in this disaster should be working at the site? >> one of the challenges is our on scene coordinator was at the site and they were overseeing the work, and the contractor, as far as my understanding, was doing the work according to the work plan. we certainly know -- >> just a big yellow plume. >> that was the result of actions we took, unanticipated, a decision we made. but we need to look at what went wrong. they are actually actively working -- >> were they given a $500,000 additional -- i
guess you would not call it a bonus, but $500,000 additional to clean up the mess they made? >> i am not aware of the psalms, but if you are referring to the fact that they were 1st on site and most able to contain the spill and contract struck the treatment facilities right at the spill location and containment, they were there and health to do that. what that accounted for, i don't know. >> i would appreciate you checking into that. this company, this contractor that was highly responsible for the disaster , they were there and were able to be there quickly because they were the ones doing it and caused the spill to take place. it appears they receive an additional 500,000 on top of the contract to now do the cleanup for the mess that they made. that to me does not sound
appropriate. >> appropriate. >> i am happy to provide you the information on what other compensation may have been given, but i also want to reiterate that epa is the one that is taking full responsibility for this. and doi will tell us whether mistakes were made at the site for whether there is any misjudgment of work we did not do. >> we appreciate any entity that says, the buck does stop here. tell the committee in what way epa failed and bears the blame in this case? >> we will wait for the doi review to tell us that. >> what do you think? we can read reports. >> there are certainly already lessons learned. where we has good as we should have been a notification? no. we had three different regional offices involved, 120 miles to account for the four it hit the navajo
nation land, and we should have been more on top of that which is why we have demanded those actions the taken.taken. did we work effectively to get our response actions up? i think our response actions have been good. can they always improve? we will look at ways we can do that. one of the big and i ami'm sure we will talk about again is, how to dispel happened? to do we look at it in a way that was not due diligence enough? >> and that goes back to the contractor. >> i think the gentleman. >> i now recognize the general and for massachusetts. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ms. miss mccarthy, normally when i see an old friend i say it is good to see you.
i'm sorry to see you under these circumstances. i love my epa in my region. >> thank you. >> i want to say some good things here. they are very responsive and conscientious. and i appreciate the work that they do. but this is not the epa's finest hour and i think you would admit that. i have a connection to this whole incident. i used to live in farmington, new mexico, was an ironworker there and lived on the navajo reservation, i guess to the nomination for a couple years. i know how the tribe is intensely invested, not only financially but spiritually in the land. and i was honored to be there guest for a couple of years. what troubles me here is
that,, you know, we often see how the epa works. they have an almost maddening hypertechnical compliance regime for businesses. that is often the case. and yet in this case internally it seems the epa abandon all of that hypertechnical compliance and its own application of its actions. what are we going to do here to help the navajo recover? what will we do to get this straightened up and cleaned up? can we get a promise you that you are all in on this and that you will be as relentless and cleaning up this spill and this accident
as you have been in some cases where you come down on some industries that we are all aware of that found themselves in a similar situation? we need that type of guarantee. we need you to be all in on this, be relentless in terms of fixing your mistake, what happened here. albeit i know there were good intentions here, but good lord, this is a beautiful area. now it is damaged extensively, and we need your help to set this thing right. >> i think you know from my forthrightness about taking responsibility for this that we are all in. is it extraordinarily difficult and upsetting for the navajo? there is no question about that. ii recognize that, and we
are working to figure out what we can do together to resolve the circumstances, but, but i know this will take a long time. and i no this is not the epa's finest hour,hour, but i'm here to tell you we are taking responsibility and will do so long-term and find a way to get this underlying fundamental challenge we have here taking care of. this was not a compliance issue. this was a response action to deal with basically contamination that epa was not the responsible party for. mi excusing our role in this? that our actions contribute? if we did anything wrong, we will be fully accountable. in the meantime, we have to make good to the navajo, to the southern ute tribal council, and the states
involved in this. no question. >> as i said before, there is a spiritual dimension to this for the navajo and the ute as well. i lived not too far from shiprock. like i say, there is an intense investment here on the part of these tribes. this is there homeland. sometimes we forget that they are a sovereign nation, and we have a huge responsibility to fix what we have exacerbated. maybe we did not create it, but we certainly exacerbated the problem and need to step up in a big way and meet our obligations. i yield back. >> i now recognize the gentleman california for five minutes. >> ms. miss mccarthy, the epa posted videos to its website taken by on-site
contractors at the spill emerging out of the mine as it happened. on september 9 epa assistant administrator status testified before the house science committee on these videos.videos. i think we have a clip of that testimony. >> according to the website, ii want you to look over on the far right-hand side there, epa removed profanity contained in the audio of the video and obscured visible license plates for privacy purposes. then it ends with this: epa did not edit the videos in any other way. first question for you, is the statement i just read from the epa website accurate? >> it is accurate. >> do you have any reason to believe it would not be accurate? >> i do not. >> there is video footage of the early stages of the gold
king my blowout obtained by the science committee. >> really high. is it going to close out? >> what do we do now? >> well, the next video is the exact same footage that epa posted on its website, but the last few seconds of the audio has been removed to prevent viewers from hearing the team on the ground saying, what do we do now? let's have the 2nd video. >> really high.
>> am going to ask that they stop it here. obviously the tape was heavily edited. this was one week ago when your agency was giving misinformation to the congress. you had one week. is this editing and concealing the video epa's idea of transparency and accountability? >> no, sir. the video should not have been redacted. when it was pointed out to us, we posted the unredacted version. >> you understand the concern. to basically, the competency of the epa, and the other is the double standard that seems to be at work here. testified earlier that you are not required to consult with the national fish and wildlife service because you
did not intend to cause the spill. the chairmanspill. the chairman pointed out there is a company that actually spelled one 4th of what the epa spilled, and you went after those people viciously and got six criminal indictments and are sending people to jail. some other poor guy in alaska operating a backhoe accidentally caused the 1500-ga1 hundredths of 1 percent of this spill, and you sent him to prison. no criminal charges have been filed against epa officials. >> we are waiting for the department of interior to produce the report. if they identify criminal -- >> you understand the skepticism of the agency investigating itself. you say your holding yourselves accountable, that you will take full responsibility.
does that mean you are resigning? >> no, sir. >> have you had any of your subordinates resign? >> no, sir. >> have you docked anyone's pay? >> no, sir. >> have yielded anybody? >> well, maybe.well, maybe. i am taking accountability for the spill and issues around it, but we are working as closely as we can to independently get this looked at, and we will be holding people fully accountable. >> there was a blog entry reporting on this pointing out after the initial spill things went from bad to worse for those relying on the river. unfortunately that prompted another attempted epa cover-up. they originally told navajo leaders the reporting was unstable and agitating.
the navajo leader took the epa at his word until he observed the pollution for himself. is this true? >> what i understand his those tanks were tested by the navajo and found to be clean. that is my understanding of the situation. there was definitely concern. do i think the level of mistrust contributed and understand why given the epa responsibility? i absolutely do, and it will take a long time, i think, before anyone begins, at least in the navajo, to trust our relationship again. we are trying to identify how to do this. we will rebuild this trust, but damage has been done beyond what happened so the river, and it will take a long time to repair, but i will do the best i can to make sure that happens. >> i think thei think the
gentleman and now recognize the gentleman from california for five minutes. >> thank you,you, mr. chairman and both of the chairs for holding this hearing. thank you, administrator mccarthy for coming, for being so forthright to offer not trying to duck tough issues and for being accountable. butbut i think that we still have to go back to some of the points made before that the gold king mind spill tragedy reminds the nation of the reality and that we have a creeping killer in the shadows. there are up to half a million abandoned mines nationwide, many of these are dangerous, discharging toxic, acidic mine waste into surface waters, and if we do not do anything to properly clean them up and close them down, we will have more disasters. that is it.
that is what i have learned after being here. i am sorry that it took this tragedy, and i am sorry for the actions that have been taken, but i am glad we are focusing our attention on what is frequently ignored or forgotten, and to help address this problem i.out -- i point again that the ranking member, many of my colleagues and myself have introduced legislation that would secure funding to clean up and properly close down these dangerous mines. hr 963 would also provide assistance to mining communities and ensure a fair return to taxpayers for extracting public minerals. i would like to urge all of my colleagues here today to become cosponsors of this important legislation and
help us to prevent the next abandoned mine contamination release before it happens. now, administrator mccarthy, these may seem like obvious questions. some have already been gone over, but i would like to get them on record. the epa was partnering with the state of colorado on the gold line -- gold king mind project, correct? >> yes, sir. >> why was the epa in colorado working with the state on the gold king mind as well as others in the area? >> because of the degradation of water quality in the rivers that was being contributed to by these 400 mines as well as the threat of a blowout at the mine, mine, which was a big concern. >> and how did that happen? >> it is a long history, but
those mines have not been actively worked since 1991. sincesince that time they're has been a build of water in the system. some mines have been plugged which creates a backup. in the gold king mind itself it had some collapses in the mine which made it an accessible. we were trying to get a handle on the situation that was growing increasingly dangerous. >> the question, again to clear up, why were the original mining operators, why did they not clean up this? and who will be paying out for this cleanup? >> my understanding is for the most part they are not obligated to. what weto. what we use in terms of resources our taxpayer dollars given to us appropriated by congress. >> so it is the taxpayers that will be paying for this
, and not only this, as we look into the future we have incomplete data has to where abandoned mines are, what toxins they are releasing into the waterways , and we are currently unable to adequately pay for the cleanup of these abandoned mines. it seems to me if we take a larger view of the gold king mine disaster and move forward with legislation, something like the hard rock mining reform and reclamation act would provide the funding for cleaning up these abandoned mine sites. would something like this be appropriate? >> it would certainly help. >> thank you command i yield back. >> i now recognize the gentlewoman from wyoming. >> thank you,you, mr. chairman, director
mccarthy. let me set up a scenario. a number of years ago they're was a water treatment plan downstream that was treating the water from this mine. about ten years ago they're was a storm. itit was damaged. it needed to be replaced. a decision was made not to replace it, not to treat water that was coming down. next epa and the state of colorado created a plan toa plan to clean up the mind rather than treat the water going downstream. so they block off the flow of water from drainpipes in the mine. when you plug the drainpipe, the water built up into a huge wall of water in the mine. and that was a significant cause of the blowout last month.
so rather than replace the treatment plant downstream that was providing cleaned up water to the ute and navajo, the decision was made not to treat but block the drain must or the water, and when it built up its buildout. it goes downstream. then the oil reclamation dumps a ton of water downstream that should have been available to the tribes to irrigate with and to keep water flow such that endangered species can remain viable. to me this looks like a chain of events that was foreseeable and avoidable. now, it was the gold king
mine owner that asserted that the buildup of water in the mine, when you plug the drain, was a contributor to the blowout. do you have any reason to disagree with that? >> i have a slightly different understanding of the history here. i do not want to pick apart the issue, but i think we need to have a conversation about it because i do not quite see the same history here. but i do no there have been many decisions. i want you to understand, epa's role here was not participating in decisions on who was responsible for what, blockages being approved or not over what to do with the treatment facility you identified. we came in to work with the state and local stakeholders to identify what we could do
to alleviate problems. >> now that we know the southern ute tribe has spent $11 million responding to this bill, who we will reimburse them? >> that is handled under cercla, basically a memorandum of agreement. i was just checking to see if that has been done with the responsible parties, and that is a routine reimbursement process that we will be able to take care of. those relationships with both the tribes and states are fairly routine because they act as emergency responders with us. the southern ute have been an incredible and incredibly diligent and being embedded in our command center, working on this. the professionalism has been wonderful, so we will make sure they are properly reimbursed for expenses. the 2nd process is the claims process, what damages have it occurred, and we use
the federal claims tort act in order to process those claims. >> how does the federal tort claims act help the navajo? they lost a huge amount of irrigating water which can have long-term devastating effects of drought continues and they do not have the water now or in the future? how can they be made whole? >> two things that are happening here as well. we are talking to the navajo about how they get reimbursed. we need to work with the president as well as the navajo nation epa to reimbursed for their expenses. the 2nd issue is the claim process. i want to make sure that we are all aware that the reimbursement process is quite different.
while costly, it is easy to do. the 3rd issue is, we are developing a long-term monitoring plan, and we need to make sure that allows engagement of the tribes, states, and counties in that effort and have aa stream of funding to support that effort as well. >> my time has expired, but mr. chairman, i have an opportunity to meet with you might i ask, director mccarthy, about what you and i perceive as a different -- >> sure. >> -- with regard to the chain of events that led to this. >> i will have my staff work with you. >> we now recognize the gentleman from virginia. >> thank you. i would like to thank you for sitting here patiently, capably answering all of these questions. i would also like to thank the representative for raising the issue of the
bulwarks and changing the hydrology in the mountain because that seems to be what we missed all along. water was draining and responsibly being treated. when the bulwarks went into a dissent decree everything changed. i am amazed that all these people and all this attention to attack the epa over completely accidental release of 3 million gallons of mine waste water wastewater with 330 million gallons of acid waste flowing into the river every year. 3,000,000 gallons on august 5, and the same watershed gets 3 million gallons every three or four days. at least 161,000 hard rock abandoned mines around the country. u.s. forest service estimates five to 10,000 miles of rivers and streams contaminated with acid mine drainage.
it seems toit seems to me, the huge elephant in the room is the water drainage from these mines, not the relatively small spell of only 3 million gallons on augus. the chairman said it was one of the worst bills we have ever had. i am not sure the facts support that claim. in 78 the sunnyside mine, 500 million gallons, 167 times, and that is just that one river. we keep coming back to accountability. i would like to look at process, the process by which this decision was made. in the testimony before we heard about the epa in the state of colorado meeting with the animus river stakeholders group. on august 4 they began excavation above where water was seeping in. it comes back again. ..