Gardner, Enzi Letter Seeks Answers from EPA on Gold King Mine Spill

Washington, DC – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced today that he and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, have sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy in reaction to the Department of the Interior (DOI) report on the Gold King Mine spill. The report indicates that the EPA failed to take steps that could have prevented the disaster from occurring.

The letter asks Administrator McCarthy fifteen questions related to the report and the EPA’s plan to hold those responsible for the spill accountable and prevent future disasters from occurring.

The letter reads, in full:

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

We write today to express concern regarding conclusions reached in the Department of Interior’s (DOI) report on the Gold King Mine spill released on October 22, 2015.  The report concludes that had the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used a drill rig to bore into Gold King Mine from above to determine the level of the mine pool, there would have been a revised plan to open the mine, and the blowout would not have taken place.


DOI’s report also shows that little engineering analysis or consideration was completed at the Gold King Mine.  In this context, we respectfully seek answers to the following:

1.         Would you provide a full accounting of individuals who worked on the mine, their level of professional expertise, and if they were under the supervision of a licensed professional engineer?

2.         What are EPA’s policies and practices for engineering projects? 

3.         Would you provide an account for all work conducted at the mine that was not performed by a licensed professional engineer? 

4.         Based on the above answers, is this consistent with what would be required of a private company conducting similar work?

Several months have passed since the initial surge of contaminated water at Gold King Mine on August 5, 2015.  To our knowledge, there has not been a reporting of claims paid to affected individuals. 

5.         Would you clarify if EPA has paid claims related to the spill? 

6.         If so, what percentage of total claims at this point have been paid? 

7.         Does the agency intend to compensate for the damages within existing agency funding? 

8.         Has EPA or does EPA intend to terminate the employment of those responsible for the spill? 

9.         If EPA has not terminated employment, how does EPA intend to hold those individuals accountable?

The report states that EPA’s actions at the Gold King Mine caused the blowout.  This conclusion refutes the assertion in EPA’s internal review of the spill which states that the blowout was inevitable. 

10.       Would you explain this discrepancy? 

11.       Is EPA currently performing similar work on other mines, and, if so, would you provide a list of these sites? 

12.       If work is being performed at other sites, is EPA changing its actions at these sites to accommodate the findings in DOI’s report? 

13.       Are professional engineers supervising these sites?

14.       What steps is EPA taking to respond to the DOI report?

15.       Is EPA conducting any further investigation or review of the cause or response to the spill outside of the Office of Inspector General’s report?       

Thank you for your time and attention to this issue.  We look forward to your responses. 

A signed copy of the letter can be viewed here.



Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.