EPA sends 185 Americans to jail while not disciplining anyone for toxic mine spill
The Environmental Protection Agency opened 213 criminal cases last year, resulting in the conviction of 185 Americans and jail terms averaging 8 months plus fines. Violations ranged from fraud to illegally removing asbestos.
But the EPA has fired no one, nor even disciplined any of its employees for the massive toxic spill at a gold mine in Colorado last summer.
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 focus on high impact more complex cases results in fewer investigations overall,” EPA notes in its presentation showing agency enforcement activities for the year. EPA says its criminal enforcement focuses “on complex cases that involve a serious threat to human health and the environment or that undermine program integrity.”
Every year, EPA agents help put dozens of Americans in prison for breaking U.S. environmental laws. Environmental crimes range from spilling coal ash into public waterways, to pretending to produce biofuels, to illegally cleaning up asbestos in buildings.
EPA’s criminal enforcements also raked in “individual and corporate fines over $88.0 million, with an additional $4 billion in court ordered environmental projects and $112 million in restitution.”
It's nice to know that the agency is so efficient in putting people in jail and collecting fines. But what about its own employees?
Interestingly enough, EPA has not fined or jailed anyone for the spilling of three million gallons of mine wastewater in August. That month, EPA workers opened up the Gold King Mine and sent a toxic plume of mine waste though rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Toxic mine waste even went through Navajo Nation territory and resulted in farms having their water supplies shut off.
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.
Interior found that had the agency used “a drill rig to bore into the mine from above” to open Gold King “the mine would have been revised, and the blowout would not have occurred.”
Sounds like gross negligence to me – the same sort of thing any private company would have to pay to clean up, not to mention pay millions in fines and possibly see corporate officers tried, convicted, and sent to jail.
But for the EPA, it's business as usual.
While the agency is obviously paying for the clean-up. they are resisting paying damages to private claimants. All told, the clean-up bill and damages paid could reach $28 billion – all on the taxpayer.
But because they work for the EPA, those responsible for the spill receive a Get Out of Jail Free card.