Animus over Animas

e-mail icon

Animus over Animas

By ERIC WOLFF 09/16/15, 10:03 AM EDT

With help from Darius Dixon and Alex Guillén

ANIMUS OVER ANIMAS: The Environmental Protection Agency was founded 45 years ago because a polluted river was on fire. Now EPA is taking fire for polluting a river. Members of Congress from both parties are demanding accountability from the agency for the accident last month that spilled waste from a old gold mine into Colorado's Animas River, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will have to explain her agency's behavior in multiple hearings starting today. Alex Guillén explains to Pros: "Lawmakers from both parties have serious questions for McCarthy, including whether her agency notified local officials quickly enough, whether workers missed signs of a potential blowout and whether the contractor had an adequate emergency response plan."

4 committees, 3 hearings, 2 days: First up is the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where McCarthy can expect to face a grilling not only from Republicans but also from the region’s Democrats, Michael Bennet, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. McCarthy will then ascend two floors to appear before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, alongside Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and others. Then on Thursday she faces a joint House Oversight and Natural Resources hearing, where McCarthy will appear along with Begaye and officials from the New Mexico and Colorado environment agencies.

THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WALKING: Begaye told ME he is seeking a formal disaster declaration, which would free up federal dollars and resources for the response. He has sent messages to the White House and had lawmakers intercede as well, but has gotten “absolutely no response so far” from President Barack Obama. Begaye says the Navajo are considering taking their anger at the lack of communication from Obama to the ballot box. “Not a word is coming out of the White House, which is very disturbing, because our people helped elect the current president. I’m saying to people of this party, if you guys don’t come and help us, we’re going to be voting for the other party,” Begaye said, adding: “We will support anyone, any group that’s willing to come and walk with us in this tragedy.”

MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A REGULATION: Congressional Republicans make no secret of their concern about new executive branch rules, particularly those coming out of the EPA. While direct assaults on the Clean Air Act and similar legislation seem to get bogged down in the Senate, some legislators hope that bills focused on regulatory reform, like a package unveiled in July by Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Sen. James Lankford, will get more bipartisan traction. The different bills would add additional public participation to rulemaking or add a retrospective review of existing rules. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will host a hearing today to discuss a some of those bills. Sen. Tom Carper, ranking member on the committee, will say in his prepared opening remarks: "I think the legislative proposals that will be discussed today are well-intentioned ... that having been said ... I worry that many of these proposals focus too much on the costs of regulations, while ignoring the benefits."

Read more: