- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2015

The EPA said Thursday it is not trying to force Indians to waive their rights to future claims stemming from the agency’s Gold King Mine disaster, saying the warnings from Navajo tribal leaders are “inaccurate.”

Navajo President Russell Begaye told The Washington Times and other press this week that Environmental Protection Agency workers were going door-to-door on his reservation trying to get residents to sign a claims form that appeared to waive future rights in exchange for taking payments now.

He called it “underhanded.”

But in a statement Thursday, the EPA insisted that wasn’t true.

EPA is not offering immediate reimbursements for damages from the Gold King Mine water and it is not true that if someone submits a claim that by doing so they limit or waive future rights,” the agency said.

The EPA said those who face damages have two years to file claims under federal law.

Mr. Begaye had questioned the EPA workers’ motives, saying they were approaching elderly Navajo farmers and ranchers who may not speak English as their first language, and who would have a hard time understanding the confusing language on Standard Form 95, which does seem to indicate that the claims made on it are final settlements and constitute a waiver of future claims.

The mine spill has been embarrassing for the government's chief environmental agency, which was conducting clean-up of the abandoned Gold King site when workers punctured a debris wall, sending millions of gallons of toxic water surging into the Animas River, which connects with the San Juan.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said she and her colleagues will hold themselves to an even higher standard than they would a private organization because they are the chief environmental watchdogs.

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