- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee acted Wednesday to subpoena EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy after the agency refused to provide witnesses to a field hearing on the EPA-caused Gold King Mine spill.

Chairman John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, and vice chairman Jon Tester, Montana Democrat, said they agreed to issue the subpoena ordering Ms. McCarthy or Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus to testify at the April 22 hearing in Phoenix.

Mr. Barrasso said the subpoena would be served on the EPA later Wednesday.

Committee members blasted the EPA for its lack of cooperation in aiding the panel in its oversight role on the Aug. 5 spill, in which an EPA-led crew uncorked 3 million gallons of orange contaminated wastewater during a mine cleanup project.

The contamination washed from Cement Creek into the Animas River near Silverton, Colorado, and poured into the San Juan River in New Mexico, which runs through the Navajo Nation.

“[I]t troubles me that this committee had to take the extraordinary step of issuing a subpoena to a confirmed federal official,” Mr. Barrasso said.

“I am troubled further that the EPA would disregard such failures and attempt to avoid the responsibility by refusing to appear before the committee and answer questions,” he said. “This sort of behavior is unbecoming of any federal official and won’t be tolerated.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said “the arrogance of bureaucracy continues to surprise me.”

“When there’s a disaster caused by another agency of government, and then we get this kind of response and we’re forced to subpoena, then there’s something really out of whack here,” Mr. McCain said.

Mr. Tester said, “I do think we need to figure out a way that we can actually empower the EPA to get these things cleaned up so we don’t have the kind of disasters we had in the southwestern part of this country.”

By issuing the subpoena, he said, “we were able to get the outcome that I think that we wanted. Did the agency make a mistake? Absolutely. They could have done better, we maybe could have done better.”

Mr. McCain and Sen. Tom Udall, New Mexico Democrat, called the spill a disaster.

“We need the EPA to be working with us to make this right,” Mr. Udall said.

Ms. McCarthy visited the site shortly after the spill occurred, but members of Congress have since accused the EPA of being unresponsive to their requests for information. Her office has said the agency continues to cooperate with the committees.

In February, Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee issued subpoenas for Interior Department and Army Corps of Engineers documents related to the spill, including a critical peer review, saying they had been withheld.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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