Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) grilled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on Thursday over the federal government’s response to the accidental spilling of millions of gallons of toxic waste into the Animas River.
The contaminated sludge spilled from the Gold King mine in Colorado into the river on Aug. 5, and the EPA has vowed to commit all necessary resources toward cleaning it up. But members of the House Oversight Committee took issue with the EPA’s initial response to the spill, which affected waters in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, including the Navajo Nation and other Native American reservations. The river was contaminated by toxic chemicals such as lead and arsenic.
“I’m highly offended by those comments,” Chaffetz told McCarthy of her opening remarks, in which she said the EPA is coordinating with the necessary parties to ensure a proper response. Chaffetz then quoted the president of the Navajo Nation, Russell Begaye, who claimed that the agency waited two days before informing them of the spill — a day after state officials in New Mexico had already done so.
When McCarthy said she was working closely with the Navajo Nation, Chaffetz, the chairman of the committee, interrupted: “No, you’re not. No, you’re not. You took two days before you called them.”
McCarthy eventually conceded that the agency’s “notifications could have been better,” and said the contaminated waters did not reach the Navajo Nation until three days after the spill. But Chaffetz wasn’t finished there. He accused McCarthy of telling the media about the spill before informing the affected people. McCarthy countered that she didn’t make any calls, and Chaffetz said, “that’s the problem.”
GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump weighed in on the EPA’s response shortly after the spill, and said the agency should focus its operations locally instead of from Washington, D.C.
Watch the confrontation below, via NBC News:
[Image via screengrab]
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