- - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Environmental Protection Agency is a hazard to living things, including women, children and little fishes. The agency commissioned to protect Americans from environmental disaster is an environmental disaster itself in Colorado again. Accidents happen, of course, but like the little boy who tracks mud onto the living room carpet, the EPA doesn’t have the courage to own up it its incompetence. Americans deserve better.

An EPA work crew spilled some 2,000 gallons of potentially toxic waste water into a stream at Colorado’s Standard Mine the other day, not far from the site of a previous similarly devastating spill by the EPA. No one bothered to tell residents of Crested Butte, a town that taps the stream for drinking water, until the following day. Said the EPA: “Subsequent investigation found no visible plume or signs of significant impacts in downstream locations.” The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment begged to differ, saying the waste water contained levels of arsenic, cadmium and zinc in the creek that exceed state standards.

The EPA was similarly caught at incompetence in August when agency workers accidentally tapped into a retention pond of mine waste near Silverton, allowing an estimated 3 million gallons of hazardous waste laced with heavy metal to rush into the Animas River, turning it a sickly yellow color for weeks. The agency did not notify authorities in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah until the following day, exposing nearby residents to the poison.

Colorado Attorney Gen. Cynthia Coffman notes the obvious hypocrisy: “Once again, the Environmental Protection Agency has apparently endangered Colorado’s waterways while drilling at an abandoned mine,” she said. “I continue to be concerned that the EPA wants to zealously regulate Colorado’s resources but refuses to be accountable for [its] own activities when they negatively impact our state.”

Private citizens go to jail for committing environmental crimes. The EPA gets off with making a bureaucratic attempt at apology and suffers no penalty. The double standard is the work of classic big government, where the bureaucrats forgive each other for transgressions done with “the best of intentions.”

As this newspaper reported last week, the EPA has spent a fortune to arm its 200 “special agents” with military-style weapons over the past decade to deploy against environmental criminals. The agency has spent $75 million annually on purchases of body armor, night-vision goggles, aerial drones and amphibious assault ships. Did someone declare war against Lower Slobbovia?

President Obama has called out police in several places for using military gear to suppress neighborhood misbehavior. He should direct the EPA to clean up its act, skip the war games and stop punishing regular folks for accidents.

Help may be on the way. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Republican, has introduced legislation to hold the agency responsible for its role in polluting the Animas River, which he describes as “the ultimate example of hypocrisy.” The law would enable injured parties to sue the EPA, and require the agency for pay damages out of its own budget. The EPA would be directed to monitor the effects of future agency-generated accidents. The Keystone Kops may get a different view of environmentalism when they’re on the wrong end of a summons.

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