Barrasso Questions EPA Administrator on Gold King Mine Disaster, WOTUS and Clean Power Plan


WASHINGTON, D.C. – September 17, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) questioned Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy about the Gold King mine disaster, the EPA’s waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, and the Obama administration’s final clean power plan. Administrator McCarthy was testifying before today’s Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee oversight hearing.

On Gold King Mine Disaster:

Senator Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, will chair an oversight hearing Wednesday afternoon with Administrator McCarthy examining the harmful impacts the EPA’s actions have had on tribes downstream from the Gold King site. Barrasso will have more questions in the afternoon hearing, but did ask Administrator McCarthy the following question about the disaster at this morning’s hearing:

“Isn’t it true that when a private company is accused of violating the Clean Water Act, that the EPA, under your specific leadership, has aggressively pursued civil fines against the company and individuals within the company?

“And isn’t it true, that if this were a 3,000,000 gallon toxic spill caused by the actions of private citizens, that the EPA would act aggressively against that company, against those citizens?

“How large of a fine would the EPA be pursuing under those cases?

“The EPA caused this disaster, that’s what Senator Bennet says, and I agree with him. And I just think the EPA ought to be held to even a higher standard, but the aggressive nature of this EPA under your direction, I think says that clearly there’s a double standard between the way the EPA treats itself and looks to itself and how it treats private companies.

On Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule:

“Over and over again, the preamble to the waters of the United States rule says that it is based on ‘the science’ and ‘the expertise and experience of the agencies,’ doesn’t appear to have any support for these statements in the rulemaking record.

“In an attempt to understand the basis for the final rule, this committee, through the leadership of our chairman, sent letters to EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers asking for documents that support the final rule, asking EPA for copies of the scientific studies, asking the Army Corps of Engineers for examples of field experience because you say you used both.

“In a letter dated August 17, Deputy Assistant Administrator Ken Kopocis did not identify any scientific studies to support the decisions made in the final ruling. Instead, he offered the staff a briefing.

“At that briefing, EPA took the position that ‘science’ just supports the idea that all water is connected – you say all water is connected. That’s not what the law of the land is. The law talks about navigable water and the federal government.

“That’s the best that your administration could do for the EPA about water is that it’s all connected—that’s their science.

“Separately, in a letter dated August 28th, Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy, told the Committee that the Army didn’t rely on any field observations to support the rule, none. You say they did.

“So this statement is consistent with memos that General Peabody of the Corps sent to the Secretary when the final rule was under review.

“So, if the final rule isn’t based on any science and the final rule isn’t based on the Corps’ experience in the field, what did you base it on?

On the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan Final Rule:

“In August, the EPA released the federal ‘Clean Power Plan Final Rule.’ The economies in many states, including my home state of Wyoming, are going to be devastated by this according to a study issued on August 4 through the University of Wyoming—we could face a loss of 7,000 to 11,000 jobs in just the coal mining, coal generation, coal transport sectors.

“That does not account for all the local businesses that are going to lose revenue as a result of those job losses.

“The study also found that my state could lose up to 60 percent of its state coal-revenue—which is money that can go to fund schools, roads, water treatment facilities, emergency medical services, all things that make people’s lives better, keep them safer.

“As your plan is taking that away for people in my state, and in other states, states that have strong energy sectors, the cost of your regulations are real, are immediate and they’re destructive.

“The benefits of your regulations are theoretical and unproven.

“My question is, how does your Clean Power Plan mitigate those impacts and the direct damage that your new regulations do to Wyoming people, people from other states, and how do you make those lives whole?”


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