WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate EPW Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight, sent a letter today to the Hon. Estevan Lopez, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) at the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), requesting “complete and unredacted” information from BOR to conduct oversight on the Gold King mine spill that occurred near Silverton, Colo., on Aug. 5.
“On October 22, 2015, BOR released a report of its evaluation, finding that the blowout could have been prevented had the site been properly evaluated and the engineering plan revised accordingly before excavation work began. According to the BOR report, BOR staff had been providing technical assistance to EPA as part of the removal action at the Red and Bonita Mine,” the Senators mentioned in the letter.
“The BOR report underwent peer review by staff with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who reportedly questioned why the BOR evaluation did not examine the internal decision making by EPA and its contractors or what caused the urgency to begin excavation work while the original on-scene coordinator was on vacation and before BOR staff were scheduled to visit the site,” the Senators said of the incomplete report.
The Senators concluded the letter with the following request, “In order to better understand the circumstances surrounding the blowout at the Gold King mine, BOR’s involvement at the site, and the development of the BOR report, it is requested that complete and unredacted copies of the following documents be provided by 12 noon on November 6, 2015:
(1) All emails, memoranda, correspondence, or other documents created or received between August 1, 2014 and the present date concerning communications between BOR and EPA related to the time critical removal action at the Red and Bonita Mine site (including any activities at the Gold King Mine No. 7);
(2) All emails, memoranda, correspondence, or other documents created or received between August 1, 2014 and the present date concerning internal BOR communications related to the time critical removal action at the Red and Bonita Mine site (including any activities at the Gold King Mine No. 7);
(3) All emails, comments, edits, or other documents concerning communications between BOR and the peer reviewers involved in the October 22, 2015, BOR report.”
The full text of the letter can be read here.
On Aug. 11, Inhofe released a statement on EPA’s Gold King mine spill which can be read here.
On Sept. 16, the Senate EPW committee held an oversight hearing titled, Oversight of the Cause, Response, and Impacts of EPA’s Gold King Mine Disaster which can be viewed here. Sens. Cory Gardener (R-Colo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) requested the hearing.
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