Double standards in the Government’s Gold King mine disaster whitewash

Double standards and pollution continue, while the feds exonerate themselves from blame

Guest essay by Paul Driessen


When a private citizen or company violates rules, misrepresents facts or pollutes a river, government penalties are swift and severe. It’s different when the government lies or screws up.

Two weeks ago, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell testified before Congress on a toxic spill that federal and state agencies unleashed into western state rivers last August. Supervised by officials from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS), an Environmental Restoration (ER) company crew excavated tons of rock and debris that had blocked the portal (entrance or adit) to the Gold King Mine above Silverton, Colorado.

The crew kept digging until the remaining blockage burst open, spilling 3,000,000 gallons of acidic water laden with iron, lead, cadmium, mercury and other heavy metals. The toxic flood contaminated the Animas and San Juan Rivers, all the way to Lake Powell in Utah. EPA then waited an entire day before notifying downstream mayors, health officials, families, kayakers, fishermen, farmers and ranchers that the water they were drinking, paddling in, or using for crops and livestock was contaminated.

Ms. Jewell told Congress she was unaware of anyone being fired, fined or even demoted. In fact, federal investigations and reports didn’t hold anyone responsible for the disaster. (Maybe they even got bonuses.) Considering the spill’s severity, the gross incompetence of government officials, their advance knowledge of the dangers, and the way they downplayed and whitewashed their actions, this is intolerable.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy did say she was “absolutely, deeply sorry.” But then FEMA denied disaster relief to the Navajos, and EPA sent them emergency water tanks contaminated with oil!

As I explained in a detailed analysis, experts had warned that contaminated water had probably backed up hundreds of feet upward into the mine, creating the risk of a sudden, powerful toxic flashflood. EPA, DRMS and ER’s prior experience with nearby mines meant they personally knew the high risks in advance. In a June 2014 work plan for the planned cleanup, ER itself had warned: Conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages and cause a release of large volumes of contaminated mine waters and sediment from inside the mine, which contain concentrated heavy metals.”

Yet they went ahead, with no emergency plans for dealing with a toxic spill. They didn’t even follow their own ill-conceived plan. As the contamination moved downstream, they claimed they had simply “miscalculated” how much water had backed up and insisted they had been “very careful.” Barely a week after the spill, Ms. McCarthy said the river is “restoring itself” to “pre-spill conditions” – something she would never say if a privately owned company had caused similar contamination.

On August 24, EPA issued a preliminary report that can only be called a Tom Sawyer whitewash, designed to absolve the perpetrators of any blame, liability, civil penalty or criminal prosecution.

It says the state and federal personnel at Gold King were “senior mining experts” and “experienced professionals” who have “extensive experience with the investigation and closure of mines.” But their names were all redacted from the summary, and their actions strongly suggest that they had little training or experience in reopening mines or dealing with possible water impoundments and toxic spills.

The EPA/DRMS determination that there was “no or low mine water pressurization” at Gold King was supposedly based on actual observations. However, the EPA review team said it “was not able to identify any calculations made on the possible volume of water that could be held behind the portal plug.”

In fact, the “professionals” simply claimed ongoing mine drainage showed that a pressure buildup was not likely. Wrong. It simply showed that the compacted overburden was able to hold back an enormous volume of water – until they destroyed its structural integrity. They also said a similar excavation at a nearby mine “did not result in a blowout.” But that’s irrelevant. Every mine is unique and must be treated as if a worst-case scenario could unfold. The other mine didn’t have serious water backup; Gold King did.

Perhaps the most blatant example of self-serving excuses is on page 7, which says in relevant part:

“Mine water pressurization data from behind the blockage potentially could have been obtained through a drill hole inserted further back into the [Gold King] Adit from above the mine tunnel. Such a technique was … not used at the [Gold King] Adit [because it] would have been very difficult and expensive … and require much more planning and multiple field seasons to accomplish. Although difficult and therefore expensive and technically challenging, this procedure may have been able to discover the pressurized conditions that turned out to cause the blowout.” [emphasis added]

In truth, the crew could easily have drilled a borehole lined with steel pipe from above the portal into an area behind the blockage, and then used simple instruments to determine the water pressure and extent of water backup, before beginning to dig. They had done this elsewhere and at could have done it at Gold King for less than $75,000, experienced miners told me. It was not “technically challenging.”

These “experienced professionals” guessed but did not test. They simply assumed there was limited water in the mine, and charged blindly ahead. And they did it after bullying their way onto the Gold King premises by threatening its owner with $35,000 per day in fines if he did not allow them on his property.

Their actions were grossly negligent. In fact, they are criminal offenses under the Clean Water Act and other laws that the government routinely uses to fine and jail private citizens and company employees, such as John Pozsgai, Bill Ellen, and employees of Freedom Industries and the Pacific & Arctic Railway. None of these “convicted felons” intended to cause those accidents, and all were “absolutely, deeply sorry” for what happened. Why should the state and federal culprits be treated any differently – get off scot free – after causing far worse environmental damage?

Before the blowout, the Gold King Mine was leaking 206 gallons of acidic, metals-laden but mostly clear water per minute in 2010, 140 gpm in 2011, 13 in August 2014 and 112 in September 2014, just before EPA first began working at the mine portal. On August 5, 2015, it flash-flooded more than 3,000,000 gallons of turmeric-orange, toxic-sludge-laden pollution.

The mine is now leaking 500-900 gallons per minute: 720,000 to 1,300,000 gallons per day – a huge increase in pollution into these important waterways. Until winter set in, most of it was finally being treated before entering Cement Creek, the Animas River and downstream waters.

So we must ask, what was the emergency that “forced” the EPA and DRMS to return to Gold King, demand immediate access to the site – and proceed in such a hasty, negligent manner? Unfortunately, this incident and the whitewashing that followed is too typical of government agencies that have become increasingly dictatorial, unaccountable, and dismissive of other interests, outside expertise, and people’s needs for jobs, minerals, energy and quality living standards.

Today, throughout the Rocky Mountain region, waters are still polluted by metals and minerals that are present in underground mines … along with the gold and silver that have long drawn prospectors, created jobs, and built state and local economies. Hopefully, effluents from all these abandoned mines will soon be minimized via practical, efficient, low-maintenance treatment systems, under legal regimes that do not assign unlimited liability to private sector entities that try to fix these problems.

That will greatly improve water quality in many streams – while suggestions presented in EPA’s otherwise shoddy internal review could do much to prevent a repeat of Gold King, if they are followed.

Meanwhile, Congress and state legislatures should further investigate the Gold King disaster, and compel witnesses to testify under oath. They should also improve relevant laws, ensure that agency personnel are truly qualified to do their tasks, and hold agency incompetents and miscreants accountable.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow ( and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

photos of Gold King Mine blowout and its aftermath

collection #1 and collection #2

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December 26, 2015 11:12 am

The emergency was that the EPA was refused superfund status for that location and needed to cause a reason for them to take control with the vast monies that superfund status brings with it.

Reply to  astonerii
December 26, 2015 3:37 pm

Video with sound of the photo at the top of Paul Driessen’s piece, lest anyone be unaware of the volume of water let loose. Nice Niagara Falls-like orange mist, as it goes over the edge:

Reply to  Russell Cook (@questionAGW)
December 26, 2015 5:21 pm

I like the little note about “showing consideration” before sharing the video. 🙂 Tough luck EPA.

Reply to  Russell Cook (@questionAGW)
December 26, 2015 8:10 pm

Well not exactly Niagra Falls but an excellent article exposing the hypocrisy of the EPA.
It’s just lucky that there was not any of that “dirty” CO2 backed up in the mine. Imaginge what a ‘pollution’ disaster that would have been!
This just highlights how the so-called environmental movement has been turned on its head. REAL pollution no longer matters, they are so obsessed with their CO2 fairies.
Pollution of our food and water supplies gets a free pass and McCarthy just points to the sky : look, look up there. It’s fully of “carbon” pollution. We must act NOW.

Reply to  Russell Cook (@questionAGW)
December 26, 2015 8:13 pm

Just the same as the way Peter Gliek got immunity from prosecution ( or even investigation ) for wire fraud even after having admitted being the one who tricked Heartland staff into releasing confidential internal documents, by pretending to be a member of the board.
Hypocrisy and double standards all the way.

Reply to  astonerii
December 28, 2015 10:52 am

Russell Cook,
That’s a lot more than 3 million gallons. Were those the EPA’s numbers?

December 26, 2015 11:34 am

The EPA a crooked government Mafia organization. – TRUMP THEM DOWN!!!!!

Reply to  TG
December 28, 2015 8:45 am

Please No Trump. We don’t need racist bigots further ruining a bad situation.

Reply to  Mike
December 28, 2015 10:32 am

Oh yes. Play the racist card.
I have news for you – it doesn’t work anymore. In fact, it’s effect is now directly opposite to what you expect it to be.

Reply to  Udar
December 28, 2015 10:45 am

I have news for you – it doesn’t work anymore.
Thanks to The Donald. ☺

A local resident
December 26, 2015 11:34 am

This reminds me a lot of the situation with the ground water in Collins Landing NY. The groundwater has been contaminated with road salt by the NY DOT road depot. We have been trying to get water district established for a long time. The NY DOT even has its own drilling rig for drilling new water wells for people who they have ruined their water. Do not try suing the NY DOT, they have their own lawyers who just defend these claims.
Both federal and state environmental agencies have been contacted regarding the environmental damage, and they show no interest whatsoever in doing anything about the situation. The contamination is ending up the Saint Lawrence River. This is happening in a state the does not allow hydro-fracking.
It was pretty ironic when Montreal was about to release untreated sewage downstream into the St Lawrence River how the local politicians carried on, but they do nothing about major environmental problems in their own regions.

December 26, 2015 11:52 am

One key point from the article was that the pollution is a criminal offense under the Clean Water Act, very frustrating to see the lack of prosecution for those criminal acts. The Act does not have a criminal intent clause and that’s why people can be convicted of a felony even though they were making a good faith effort.

Reply to  erikemagnuson
December 26, 2015 1:18 pm

This could only happen under an Oblama administration !!

Phil R
Reply to  erikemagnuson
December 26, 2015 1:53 pm

Not sure if you know, but just curious. is there a statute of limitations, or could EPA personnel be prosecuted if a Republican president is elected next year and the administration decides to persue this (maybe Obama will preemptively pardon the EPA)?

Reply to  Phil R
December 26, 2015 2:27 pm

What possible reason would anyone have to think that anything would be done, or even that anything would change?

Phil R
Reply to  Phil R
December 26, 2015 3:04 pm

None, just wishful thinking.

Reply to  erikemagnuson
December 26, 2015 3:09 pm

Not just clean water. This is a hazardous waste site, so those regulations apply as well. They grossly ignored their own emergency response requirements. All offsite impacts must be immediately reported to affected local authorities and the national response center.
40 CFR 264.56 in short, explicit words, gives the requirements for notification of hazardous waste issues
And Phil, the statute of limitations is 5 years. If cover-up or corruption can be proved, then the statute is 5 years from when the corruption is removed.

Brian J in UK
December 26, 2015 11:54 am

“state and federal personnel at Gold King were “senior mining experts” and “experienced professionals” who have “extensive experience with the investigation and closure of mines.”
Any “Senior Mining Expert” and “Experienced Professional” should have known that there was a dangerous potential for a blow out. “Extensive experience”??? No excavation should have taken place until a cased, valved hole had been put in through the adit sidewall from the flank to test the pressure. To “Senior Mining Experts” and “Experienced Professionals” this is an absolute no-brainer and is not technically difficult. These “Senior Mining Experts” and “Experienced Professionals” should be prosecuted to the limit of the law – pour le encourage les autres if nothing else – that is – make an example of them. This is absolutely disgusting and would make all proper senior mining experts and industry professionals very angry. There should be an industry response to this.

Reply to  Brian J in UK
December 26, 2015 1:42 pm

I’m a senior mining expert and it seems obvious to me. This type of event is codified into legislation here, called “inrush” and demands that every mine has an inrush management plan. Drilling into inaccessible areas of old workings to determine their precise location is standard practice. There are even government mandated guidelines and standards describing how to avoid these type of events.
In my life as a mining professional, I could not imagine doing such an irresponsible and environmentally damaging act as these folk from the EPA.

Reply to  AP
December 28, 2015 3:09 pm

I’ll do one better – as a “senior mining expert” myself, if you couldn’t drill into the mine, then you would prepare the area in front of the mine for a possible outflow of water. Lined, diked, containment ponds, portable water treatment systems, etc. You might not know the rate of the possible outflow, but you would be able to estimate volumes, and plan accordingly. I would then have proceeded very carefully with the excavation. Sounds to me like they just decided to tear the thing open to see what’s what.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Brian J in UK
December 30, 2015 11:19 am

This comment rings true to me. In my experience there are many conscientious government employees but too many are refugees from the more demanding private sector. Additionally, decently qualified people who enter the public service tend to stagnate there as their jobs see so little of the change and innovation which is a constant in the private sector. As a result, public employees are often poorly equipped to handle complex situations such as this.

James Boomer
December 26, 2015 11:54 am

Great analysis and recommendations!

John F. Hultquist
December 26, 2015 12:02 pm

… and they wonder why the regular citizens do not trust this Obama Government.
[Follow on to the first comment: At the time, it was reported the EPA wanted a large sum of $$ to build a treatment plant and, not getting their way on that, decided to cause and episode. The plan, somewhat, worked.]

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
December 26, 2015 1:21 pm

” Never let good crisis go to waste”…liberal logic…

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
December 28, 2015 11:51 am

… and they wonder why the regular citizens do not trust ANY Government.

john harmsworth
Reply to  M Simon
December 30, 2015 11:32 am

Unfortunately, I think most people DO trust government. That’s why this kind of problem persists not just in the U.S. but all over the world. We think that private companies cannot be trusted with “the public good”, but conversely, public workers cannot seem to be held properly accountable for their actions ( or inactions). The belief that government can do everything ( anything? ) better defines the left. For those of us who believe differently, we have to show how a structure can properly reward private companies to safeguard public interest while maintaining accountability. Too many attempts at privatization have been failures ie. California’s power management authority, private prison abuses, $20 aspirin in U.S. hospitals, etc. Better public to private management structures are required.

December 26, 2015 12:13 pm

“Trust the Government, -ask a Navajo….”
If this happened in say downtown Chicago , there would be hell to to pay.
depending of course, where it happened.
I have Navajo friends, this is a crime…

December 26, 2015 12:28 pm

Their actions were grossly negligent. In fact, they are criminal offenses under the Clean Water Act and other laws that the government routinely uses to fine and jail private citizens and company employees, …

The minions of the state are almost always exempt from the laws that would punish us poor mundane serfs. This is true from local officials to federal ones.
There is one crime that has been speculated upon in the time since this indecent became public. (hard to hide a nasty yellow river is it not?) Some have speculated that the feds were attempting to make it look like the mine owner was responsible so as to fine them and seize the property. I don’t know if that is true, but it is hard to explain EPA actions at the mine in any other way. What were they doing if not attempting to cause the owners serous legal difficulty?
“Colorado mine owner: EPA lied in congressional hearing”
“Gold King Mine Spill Contractor Cashed In After The Disaster”
After reading extensively on the matter over weeks and weeks, I came to the conclusion that the EPA was trying to cause a disaster they could blame on the mine owners, but that they did not mean to cause one as large as what happened. They were going for a small disaster but got one of the worst in mining history. My conclusion may not be the correct one, but I have not seen any better rational for EPA actions.
~ Mark

Phil R
Reply to  markstoval
December 26, 2015 2:00 pm

IANAL and I agree that the government (local, state, and federal) are generally exempt from lawsuits. But if I am not mistaken, their protection does not extend to gross negligence, and this appears to be gross negligence.

Reply to  Phil R
December 27, 2015 3:00 am

I don’t doubt that you are right about what the law says.
The unfortunate thing is that the government itself determines what the law means, does the investigation, determines the charge, decides if there will be any prosecution, decides the penalty if there is conviction, and so on. The government is the sole determination in deciding if the government has done wrong and what is the penalty if it has done any wrong.
They say it is very hard to sue city hall and I guess that goes for the government as a whole. You can do that sometimes when the government welcomes the suit and losing the suit will expand the bureau’s power but that does not seem to be the case here.

Reply to  markstoval
December 29, 2015 1:22 pm

I Remember that Obama expedited the environmental impact statements through the EPA for the DeepWater Horizon too. This administration has a horrendous environmental record.

December 26, 2015 12:32 pm

The EPA and its subsidiary leeches squander billions of the taxpayers dime on climate activism and destroying industry. In turn their stupidity and penny pinching pollutes the environment in ways that should bring about a criminal case. Guess who gets to pay for the cleanup and any imposed fine that might arise if someone finds the stones to sue. Mostly win-win for the EPA. All lose-lose for those footing the bill.

Greg Cavanagh
December 26, 2015 1:01 pm

We expected this outcome, though it is very disappointing to find that we’re correct. I’m absolutely furious about this spill and I’m not even American. Watching the original video what it was released, and as an engineer I was screaming at the monitor “you bunch of bloody idiots”.
As astonerii says, this was a prearranged accident to further EPA’s authority over the town and area.

December 26, 2015 1:16 pm

President Trumps first official words will be ” EPA, Your fired ” !!

Reply to  Marcus
December 27, 2015 12:41 pm

You wish.
Trump ain’t who you think he is.
He is a liberal in GOP garb – expecting him to win is unrealistic, and expecting any positive change if he did win is even more so

Reply to  tomdesabla
December 28, 2015 8:24 am

re: Trump is not what the Right hopes he is (Tomdesabla)
1) The Left has their Magic Negro in POSident Obama. The Right should have a chance to support a White Knight, no?
2) There is a possibility Trump may have Saul of Tarsus conversion.
Dan Kurt

Reply to  tomdesabla
December 29, 2015 10:28 am

I have a feeling that if Trump and Jesus ever met, Trump would try to convert Jesus.

Steve Fraser
December 26, 2015 1:27 pm

When I saw the original video of the progression of the flow, it made me sick to my stomach. What made me sicker was the inaction of those standing around with idle, fossil-fueled earthmoving equipment. Nobody lifted a finger to reinforce the earthen dam as the leak started.. No contingency plan, no situational awareness, no individual response… No nada…

December 26, 2015 1:28 pm

It is a pity that we must wait 13 months before Jewell and McCarthy leave their offices on their own accord immune to Local, State and Federal prosecution of their criminal acts (terrorism) against the peoples of Colorado and Utah and the United States of America.

December 26, 2015 1:31 pm

It’s absolutely typical. Those rotters at the EPA are untouchable, it would seem. Let’s hope it all catches up with them and the culprits are sent for a stint in chokey.

December 26, 2015 1:39 pm

The EPA planned this from the Gitgo. Knowing this,
If they knock at your door, what will happen?

Kenneth Simmons
December 26, 2015 1:47 pm

It looks like local officials are being let off the hook-but not by me. I am placing them on the hook right beside the EPA. The EPA is there for performing a reckless, amateurish cleanup. Local officials are hooked for not letting the area get superfund status. They feel that all the strict rules and regulations would make the area look less attractive to potential future mining concerns. Never mind the “waterfall” of spills that are occurring at an unbelievable rate.

December 26, 2015 1:58 pm

When Government becomes big enough it reaches the status of an autonomous Mafia that can disregard the rights and concern for the welfare of its citizens. It then sees itself above the law as its interests are paramount. It does not happen only in the USA. It is universal.

Shanghai Dan
December 26, 2015 2:00 pm

See, Government is always good – even if Bad Things Happen ™, because it was done by the Government it is, inherently, good. So there’s no need to penalize anyone because in the end it will be all good.
Or something like that…

December 26, 2015 2:01 pm

“Double standard” implies two different standards but in this case it does not appear the EPA has any standards.

Bob Burban
Reply to  JohnWho
December 27, 2015 9:18 am

Not true … the EPA has standards … two of them.

December 26, 2015 2:12 pm

This and other examples are symptomatic of a government that has slipped its moorings.

December 26, 2015 2:30 pm

Nothing will change. Nothing will be done. Nobody will be held to account. Why would you think otherwise?
The government as a whole is simply too large and corrupt. Doesn’t matter what letter follows the name of the President, or who controls Congress. They’re all in it for themselves.

Reply to  TonyG
December 27, 2015 4:06 pm

I think, in this example, citizens of Colorado could either petition for a Grand Jury or form one if one doesn’t already exist, then investigate and indict. I believe the Colorado State Attorney General would then have to prosecute?

Reply to  Bartleby
December 28, 2015 8:28 am

You forget Colorado has a Democrat Governor.
Dan Kurt

December 26, 2015 3:06 pm

The federal government is plainly out of control. It has happened because we the people have just been too busy to insist upon moral and ethical behavior from our elected officials. Repairing this situation will be very difficult. However, unless it is repaired, I believe that we all know that our republic will be lost along with all of our individual freedoms. Unfortunately not enough people understand this.
The best solution is the decentralization of power in the Washington bureaucracy and a re-investment of that power in the states. Politicians need to begin campaigning on this very issue, since it essentially lies at the root of most of the other problems we see.

Reply to  Jbird
December 27, 2015 1:06 pm

Jbird, I couldn’t agree more. However, the States have become largely dependent on Federal Gov’t subsidies and just as bloated with like-minded, equally-misguided, corrupt and self-centered politicos at all levels and in all the bureaucracies. I believe we are now on a run-away freight train, and with every new liberal “victory”, that train just picks up more speed. Eventually, we’re going to run out of track…

Gary Pearse
December 26, 2015 4:13 pm

The pressure should have been determined anyway if there were plans to treat the water as I can’t think of any other thing to be done with it. For this you would have to build a containment pond lined with geotextile for settling and lime treatment and you would have to know the rate of flow for design and reagent tonnage needed.
Any engineer could also have advised that the flow would increase significantly without a pressure problem when the hindering plug material was removed (imagine a tap turned three quarters off). As it turns out it is now flowing at about 9 times the former seep rate with the pressure off. I would have suggested at least 5 times seep rate site unseen.
There should be a technical investigation to establish what should have been done. I don’t understand why they didn’t engage an engineering firm to do the project. Aren’t there written regulations re this stuff?

Keith Willshaw
Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 27, 2015 2:51 pm

This is exactly what was done in the case of the Force Crag Lead Mine in the Lake District. The levels of water in the mine were determined using a combination of geological surveys and by drilling into the top of the adit. They also used the existing tailings lagoon of the old mine to build two vertical flow ponds lined with a geo membrane. The outlet from the ponds is passed into a wetland planted with soft rushes which absorbs up to 98% of the heavy metals in the water, The system was designed by Newcastle University and installed by the Coal Authority which is normally tasked with controlling outflow from abandoned collieries.

Dave O.
December 26, 2015 4:29 pm

Don’t have a problem with what the EPA did. They asked themselves: What is the quickest way to clean up the site? Ah! Drain it!!!

December 26, 2015 4:44 pm

I hope someone with authority will take a serious look the the National Forest Service in Va over the past 10 years. The queen bee lost control of her agenda and her proteges picked it up and continued after she got promoted to Oregon rather than canned. Nothing changed except the names. The total incompetence continues to this day. It’s as bad as the global warming scam.
Worked liked this: the queen gets in, brings her followers from out west, forces retirement of long term employees, presses agenda, no room for dissension. End result: very few have any respect for the current National Forest Service. Incompetence now rules the day in the NFS in Va.

Reply to  eyesonu
December 27, 2015 12:44 pm

Now multiply your observation by every federal dept and you’ll understand the magnitude of what’s actually happened.
EPA – check
VA – check
secret service – check
Treasury – check
I could go on

Reply to  tomdesabla
December 29, 2015 10:30 am

IRS, double check

December 26, 2015 5:05 pm

I don’t understand how anyone could possibly think it a good idea to pull the plug without knowing how much of what was piled up behind it. I’m not going to accuse someone else’s government agency of malice, but none of this makes sense.

John Robertson
December 26, 2015 6:37 pm

There is no law.
Under environmental statutes.
The Legislation is written with to cover all angles, so the enforcers are given broad discretionary powers.
The enforcer envisioned by legislators is a well qualified, person with experience and expertise in the industry.
Except government does not pay for such expertise, and bureaucracies have no space for skilled individuals.
What we get is this situation.
The law(Offence) is whatever the bureaucrat wants it to be.
There is no defence, because the statute gives the official full authority.
And the only type of person attracted to such low paying positions are junior Cartmans. (Southpark).
Who invariably rise to be Chief Enforcer by longevity.
Most senior in arrogance and incompetence.
Good enough for government, of course no one will be held accountable, those draconian regulations?
They only apply to the little people.
Classic Kleptocracy.
The law protects the thieves, punishes the productive.
Government by fools and bandits for the benefit of fools and bandits

Steve Oregon
December 26, 2015 7:40 pm

The EPA isn’t holding any of the site contractors responsible for anything because they would then squeal about the EPA people directing them.
They all go down or no one goes down.

December 26, 2015 9:53 pm

There are gold regions like Australia’s Ballarat and Bendigo where old mines went as deep as they could “until the water beat them”. Pumps were not so good then. One result is that there is a deeper continuation of these world class gold deposits, confirmed by later drilling, but most prospective operators have voluntarily declined to mine deeper because of the danger of encountering an old shaft filled with 100 metres or more of water. These can be like an explosive if they are met by a new tunnel in progress. Too dangerous. Too few old records of adequate accuracy.
The above cities have sat on these old underground mines since 1900 or so with not a great deal of inconvenience, compared to the value of their mined gold, which played a large part of setting Australia on the path of a prosperous nation after the 1860s. There is not a great need to fiddle with them. If it is not broken, don’t try to fix it.
That is not quite so, because there is a hard problem ahead. Suppose there is a vertical shaft that has passed its use by date. How do you plug the top of it, so that nothing or nobody can fall down? It is really quite hard and I do not know the answer. Concrete plugs have been used, but they might not sit there with space below them for the many centuries needed. You can’t rely on steel girders – they rust.
In the mining industry we spend a lot of experience, thought, time and money trying to head off accidents. This seems not to have been the case with guvmint people at Gold King. Sadly, in years to come, lives will be lost when amateurs try to intrude, “for the common good” into topics of specialisation and the results of thought and experience.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
December 29, 2015 10:32 am

How deep are those mines? Could you just start rolling in boulders until it fills up?

John F. Hultquist
December 26, 2015 10:19 pm

the Massive Ordnance Penetrator; 30,000-pound (13,608 kg) “bunker buster”

Patrick MJD
December 27, 2015 1:29 am

Not only Govn’t but left leaning alarmist media too. This was spat out all over the alarmist Australian MSM.
A joint venture between Vale Brazil and BHP Billiton Australia.
And nothing, I repeat *NOTHING* in the Australian MSM about this EPA “mishap”. Double standards indeed!

Peter Miller
December 27, 2015 2:01 am

The problem is that green activists in any government environmental organization actively campaign against the professionals in those organizations who actually know what they are doing. The result is you end up with organizations top heavy with clueless bureaucrats, motivated solely by highly flawed greenie theory and not by hard earned experience.
All over the western world it is the same, in the UK it is the Environment Agency, who routinely blame disasters caused by their own utter incompetence on supposed climate change.
As this report indicates, trying to find those responsible for the disasters is almost impossible. Anyhow, how dare we irrelevant taxpayers suggest government employees be fired for gross incompetence – that’s just now how the system ‘works’.

December 27, 2015 5:16 am

look! , look!
A Volkswagen

December 27, 2015 8:18 am
Reply to  Robertvd
December 27, 2015 10:35 am

Wow, that’s a lot of liberals !!

December 27, 2015 8:36 am
Reply to  Robertvd
December 27, 2015 11:46 am

EU President – “Global Warming” being used as a vehicle to suppress human freedom.
Goes on to explain that suppressing human Freedom is the task of the EU
Auto – mods, please note – with tongue only very slightly in cheek!

Reply to  Robertvd
December 27, 2015 4:31 pm

That’s Vaclav Klaus, who never served in any 6 month EU presidency. –AGF

December 27, 2015 11:46 am

As a concerned English outsider who visited Durango, Silvertown, the Animas River area and the down stream locations before the catastrophe I can only say that the official report is a classic of its kind. It should be required reading, together with the appropriate videos, in all schools. This, the teacher should say, is what this nation has come to. Mendacious self-serving whitewash laid on by the bucketload.
I had a little experience of gold mining some years ago. Any one and everyone in the business knows that it involves highly toxic heavy metals as well, plus the normal unavoidable build up of water.
A possible explanation: The people who unplugged the dam knew what that were doing. And somewhere there was an instruction to do so. No expert in the field would have risked his (her?) own neck by taking such an obviously huge risk of creating a major contamination of an important waterway. Especially as river levels were low.
This is worth every tourist business, water user, and interested party affected by the spiillage getting together and unleashing a major investigation into who told who what and when.
If the employees truly did not know what might happen then the people who hired and trained them need to be penalised for gross dereliction of their duty of care of their staff, some of whom could have been killed.

Greg Cavanagh
December 27, 2015 2:25 pm

The excavation crew were digging looking for signs of water. When they found water, they had no plans for what to do about it. They stood around asking each other “what do we do now?”, then they ran away.
The contractors and those who contracted them should be hauled through the court system.

Eugene WR Gallun
December 27, 2015 3:17 pm

Big government (socialism) only tries to do GOOD for the peons. Therefore this incident should not have been reported in the press since it besmirched the government and makes it harder for the government to do GOOD. Continue down the route we are going and in fifty years all news will be GOOD news.
Eugene WR Gallun

Reply to  Eugene WR Gallun
December 29, 2015 10:36 am

Socialism only pretends to do good for the peons. In reality it is nothing more than PR used by those who are getting rich off of it, to placate the masses.

December 27, 2015 4:14 pm

Any outrage and protests by Greenpeace?

Reply to  wijnand2015
December 27, 2015 9:56 pm

That’s what I was wondering. Have any environmental groups protested the EPA, or is the money, the politics, and their cozy relationship with government more important to them than the environment?

Reply to  wijnand2015
December 28, 2015 11:07 am

A search of their website, and a search by googling “greenpeace” and “gold king mine” showed nothing. That ought to be investigated – maybe a chunk of money hit one of their accounts just as GP would have been picking up the story.

December 27, 2015 6:47 pm

Yet another reason to totally reassess the relationship between the federal government, the states and the people. One of the few peaceful ways remaining is for the States to call for an Article V convention to consider amendments to the Constitution.
In the case of this outrage, and others where the bureaucracy has simply run amok, it used to be that the simple fact that there was only so much tax money in the till served to restrain the scope of government. But since the creation of the federal reserve, coupled with the unlimited power to tax incomes (there is no limit given in the Sixteenth Amendment), government has increasingly just created the money it wanted out of thin air by various means.
The first way to restrain government is via the simple restraint of limiting the total amount of money it can spend. That tends to focus its priorities. How to do that must be the first order of business for an Article V convention.

December 27, 2015 7:43 pm

“EPA then waited an entire day before notifying downstream mayors, health officials, families, kayakers, fishermen, farmers and ranchers that the water they were drinking, paddling in, or using for crops and livestock was contaminated.”
That alone adds to criminal negligence.

Michael Fox
December 27, 2015 10:22 pm

The EPA’s actions aren’t all that dissimilar from the BLM’s (that’s Bureau of Land Management, not Black Lives Matter) regarding western rangeland fires. In recent years federal fire managers have set backfires and mismanaged wildfires such that they kill ranchers’ cattle and endanger their properties — not to mention the hundreds of thousands of acres scorched and rendered useless to cattle and wildlife — with nary so much as an apology, and always absolving themselves of any responsibility. But if a rancher’s backfire gets out of control, let the prosecutions roll.

December 28, 2015 7:26 am

Currently living in Colorado and having worked previously in the mining industry this whole incident exposes the gross incompetence of government regulatory agencies. They claim to be experts but lack intelligence in anticipating even basic problems or concerns. The fact that they didn’t listen to the advise & concerns of the local mine experts just confirms their incompetence. There is absolutely no excuse for this mentality and behavior. These people need to be prosecuted to maximum extent of the law.

Reply to  Richvs
December 28, 2015 8:38 am

At worst expect a Lois Lerner punishment by a Democrat led State and Federal Government.
Dan Kurt

December 28, 2015 9:53 am

Actually, I think that EPA is not immune to lawsuits and such for their behavior. They should be sued under section 207 of CERCLA. It is tried in front of a Federal Judge, no jury. EPA is and has been the #1 PRP at CERCLA sites and they always pay.

December 28, 2015 10:42 am

The most terrifying words in the English language:
“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

December 30, 2015 8:28 am

Reblogged this on Climate Change Sanity and commented:
Reblogging this posting on how the EPA blew it and let millions of gallons of polluted mine water go into Western rivers and nobody has been arrested, fined or even fired. The following are quotes from the posting to give you some idea of what is going on.
“When a private citizen or company violates rules, misrepresents facts or pollutes a river, government penalties are swift and severe. It’s different when the government lies or screws up.
Their actions were grossly negligent. In fact, they are criminal offenses under the Clean Water Act and other laws that the government routinely uses to fine and jail private citizens and company employees, such as John Pozsgai, Bill Ellen, and employees of Freedom Industries and the Pacific & Arctic Railway. None of these “convicted felons” intended to cause those accidents, and all were “absolutely, deeply sorry” for what happened. Why should the state and federal culprits be treated any differently – get off scot free – after causing far worse environmental damage?”

D. J. Hawkins
December 30, 2015 11:52 pm

i posted weeks ago that Congresscritter Bruce Westerman has filed a complaint with the Colorado professional engineering board re the EPA’s apparent practicing of engineering without a license regarding the work at Gold King Mine.

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