The EPA, The Animas River, and Accountability

Posted: August 11, 2015 by ShortTimer in Environmentalism, Government, Obama administration
Tags: ,

A couple days ago, the EPA decided to stick its nose into something looking for someone to fine in the name of Gaia, and instead dumped a million gallons of toxic sludge and heavy metals down the Animas River in CO, UT, NM, and AZ.

A federal cleanup crew accidentally caused a big, and potentially hazardous, mess in Colorado, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

An estimated 1 million gallons of wastewater spilled out of an abandoned mine area in the southern part of the state on Wednesday, turning the Animas River orange and prompting the EPA to tell locals to avoid it.

animas river durango 150811 before and after

Oh, wait, did the EPA say 1 million?  They meant 3 million.  Until the next revision as they “tell the truth slowly” and it becomes 10 million or 100 million.

The agency, meanwhile, remains under intense fire after its contractors accidentally breached a dam at the mine last week and sent toxic sludge flowing into the Animas River. The contaminated water has spread to New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, and EPA officials were forced to concede that more than 3 million gallons were released into the river — a much higher amount than the agency’s initial estimate of 1 million gallons.

It’s really bad.

animas river 150811

A map of the San Juan river watershed gives some idea of how much this pollution the EPA caused is going to impact:

san juan river map w animas

This is a huge area the EPA has managed to pollute.

The big question is, as WT hints at, is anyone going to be held accountable?

Although not comparable in magnitude, the spill in some ways is reminiscent of BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which famously led President Obama to say he was looking for someone’s “ass to kick” in response and prompted Ken Salazar, the interior secretary at the time, to vow to keep his “boot on the neck” of BP.

This time, with a federal agency responsible for the spill, the talk hasn’t been so tough.

Critics say the administration is exercising a clear double standard by failing to demand the kind of accountability — including the firings of those responsible — that it has demanded of private companies.

They also say the EPA has seriously damaged its own credibility by failing to reveal the incident until a day later, and by initially downplaying the size of the spill.

If the EPA were to be treated like a private company, it would be getting fined, its officers would be getting fined, its people directly responsible for operations that caused the pollution would be going to prison, and the company would likely be destroyed.

Since it’s the EPA, expect nothing to happen.  There’ll be some angry comments, but much like when the ATF sent guns to narcoterrorist cartels with Fast and Furious – the express opposite of what their job is, when the EPA poisons an entire river in the express opposite of what their job is – no one will be held accountable.

This is more indicative of living in an age where rule of law has fallen to the wayside.  The government that’s supposed to be held to the highest standard instead decides if it feels like punishing itself for failures, and because it’s just more convenient not to, it won’t.  And they know you either can’t or won’t do anything about it, so they have zero problem with shutting down all the coal plants in the US with rules they just made up based on fantasy while they actually poison rivers.

Hypocrisy is irrelevant because they determine what is wrong and right.  The law applies to you, not to them.  Enjoy your pollution courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency – if it weren’t for them, you’d have cleaner rivers and air regionally managed by state environmental departments, cheaper electric bills and the economy and environment would be better.

As an aside, since the BP 2010 spill was mentioned, it’s important to note the only reason they were out drilling in deep water where a spill is so difficult to contaminate is because they were forced far offshore.  If the rig had been in shallower water, it’d’ve been easier to drill, there’d be less likelihood of a spill to begin with, and if there were a spill, it’d be that much easier to fix at 200 feet down as opposed to 5100 feet down.

Comments
  1. Let me start by saying that I actually really enjoyed reading this post – I’m always trying to understand different perspectives.

    If you have the time, I was hoping you could expand on your comment “The law applies to you, not to [the EPA].” As a thought experiment: say a doctor made an active mistake (for example, in surgery – not just FAILING to do something such as spotting a diagnosis, but actually CREATING HARM). We wouldn’t necessarily discredit the work of the entire hospital as a result, would we? of course this particular crew has made a massive mistake – it’s practically unforgivable and will costs millions to repair (if that’s even possible). But I don’t know if it’s correct to claim that by extension, all regulation at federal level is wrong. A genuine question – would your opinion be any different if this was a private company/contracted clean-up-crew?

    Again, I don’t mean any disrespect whatsoever!🙂

    • ShortTimer says:

      Glad you took the time to comment, and I’ll try to give you an answer in order to help you appreciate different POVs – most often those different points of view are due to different experiences and exposure to different info.

      Short answer takes the form of questions – “who oversees the doctor?” And “does that doctor have authority to come into your home/business/place of work/recreation and actively cause that harm?” And “what are the doctor’s actual goals that color the character of the doctor and the hospital?”

      I have a much longer answer as well, and I’ll put that up when I have it fully written (probably late tonight).

      • ah yes, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?😉 (“Who will guard the guards themselves?”)

      • ShortTimer says:

        Indeed.

        I have most of that longer response saved, but life got in the way of being able to respond quickly, and in the meantime I came up with a few examples of the EPA in action to consider – and their effects.

        When was the last time you tried to fill your lawnmower, anything with a small engine, or even an emergency tank if you ran out of gas?

        Old gas cans worked just like big 5 gallon camping water jugs do. You have a spigot/tube on one side to pour out of, and you have a vent hole on the other side that you open up so air can fill the can as it’s pouring. That’s how gas cans used to be. Due to EPA rules and federal regs, those cans can’t be made anymore. The EPA decided there was too much gasoline vapor escaping from old gas cans, so they ordered manufacturers to make a can that has no vent hole.

        The modern can I have now has a filler spout with a stiff neck that you have to invert completely – you turn the can upside down, and you press part of a switch on the spout into the can, and it pours as fast as gravity will take it. And it pours everywhere. You end up with a bigger spill of gas than you’d ever have lost from vapor. The EPA has created more environmental harm than good. They regulated and mandated it and now you and I pollute more rather than less because of it.

        But, as Levar Burton on Reading Rainbow used to say, don’t take my word for it…
        http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/11/07/1342736/-Has-anyone-purchased-a-new-gas-can-lately
        Even rabid leftists at the DailyKos can see there’s a problem (aside from the few watermelon environmentalists who think the objective is to make something such a pain in the butt it has to be done away with).

        On a larger scale, look at the EPA’s coal regulations. They’re trying to crush coal as an energy source for the US, despite the fact that we have huge reserves of coal, and we have more and more efficient technologies for reducing emissions from use of coal. The EPA is trying to drive coal out of business, and let’s not forget Obama’s “energy prices will necessarily skyrocket” promise from years ago – with the idea of inflicting a cap & trade scam for the rich to continue enjoying power they like while the middle class lose their quality of life and become poorer, and the poor get subsidized just enough that they don’t quite make the connection that they’re also poorer for it.

        The economic effects are felt in the costs of increased energy prices by manufacturers and businesses, who in turn pass those costs onto consumers. Consumers pay more for the same thing, and end up losing buying power. Businesses who can’t pass those costs on end up having to cut costs someplace, and that results in stagnating wages, lost jobs, and a weakened economy overall – all from higher energy costs.

        Now, if one were purely concerned with the status of nature and not the status of people at all, the effects are still problematic. People still want to increase their quality of life across the globe. If the US loses coal plants and loses manufacturing capacity, we still buy things from elsewhere, and people across the world still buy things from somewhere else. Where else? For one example – China. As Joe Biden famously said about coal plants “let them build them over there”.

        If we’re all in this together on this little blue sphere, someone polluting on the other side of the globe is going to cause problems at home as well. China increasing their use of dirtier energy with no real concern for pollution is going to cause higher net pollution globally, and increased economic strength by nations who don’t care about the environment is a net loss for the planet. And there are plenty of nations beyond China that don’t care.

        Baotao, for example, would not exist in the west today:
        http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150402-the-worst-place-on-earth

        Of course, you’re assuming that the EPA, like a good doctor, would first do no harm – and not that they’re actively out to harm you. Consider those who don’t actually care about the environment, but instead use it as a wedge for their own ends – the “watermelon environmentalists” where the ends are socialist/communist objectives – green on the outside, red on the inside. The solutions are always the same – abolition of private property and control of land by the state, a heavy progressive/graduated income tax, abolition of rights of inheritance, confiscation of property of emigrants and rebels, centralization of financial control by the state, control of communication & transportation by the state, and the other four planks of economic control, education control, and control of land.

        It just comes in the form of the EPA telling you what you can do on your own land, fining you for it if you don’t comply (which is what happened with the Animas spill – the owner objected but was threatened with fines), etc., etc. I could write a whole post paralleling it.

        Anyhow, I would ask you to check your premise. Don’t assume the EPA is a good thing. Look at what it does, look at the effects of what it does on the whole.

        Here’s a few examples of other EPA sins from over the years (in retrospect, I should’ve made an EPA tag).

        Testing on humans
        Biofuel mandates for fuels that DO NOT EXIST
        EPA personnel wasting taxpayer funds building entertainment systems… and literally crapping in the halls
        And again, the gas can

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