EPA Pardons Itself from Toxic Spill in Colorado, New Mexico

How convenient.

Never mind President Obama spending his last remaining days pardoning the heck out of criminals -- the Environmental Protection Agency is doing some pardoning of its own.

From The Salt Lake Tribune:

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday it will not repay claims totaling more than $1.2 billion for economic damages from a mine waste spill the agency accidentally triggered in Colorado, saying the law prohibits it.

The EPA said the claims could be refiled in federal court, or Congress could authorize payments.

But attorneys for the EPA and the Justice Department concluded the EPA is barred from paying the claims because of sovereign immunity, which prohibits most lawsuits against the government.

EPA spokeswoman Nancy Grantham defended the agency, saying it “worked hard to find a way” to cough up the money but its “hands are tied.” 

Legal Insurrection explained what is actually happening:

The EPA is hiding behind the Federal Tort Claims Act, indicating that it prevents the agency from paying claims the result from “discretionary” government actions. Congress passed the law to allow government agencies to act “without the fear of paying damages in the event something went wrong while taking the action,” according to its press release.

How very convenient for them. We wonder if the average American citizen could try this sometime.

The EPA’s digging "mistake" sent three million gallons of wastewater from the Gold King Mine in Colorado into the Animas and San Juan rivers below, turning it a putrid orange full of iron, lead, copper, manganese, and other metals. Now, the EPA claims the water quality has returned to “pre-spill condition,” according to the Tribune.

New Mexico Democrat Sens. Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan said:

"We are outraged at this last-ditch move by the federal government's lawyers to go back on the EPA's promise to the people of the state of New Mexico — and especially the Navajo Nation — that it would fully address this environmental disaster that still plagues the people of the Four Corners region."

Republican Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner added, “When the law allows the government to hide from those whom it has harmed, the law must change.”

The Tribune concludes:

Last month, the EPA said it would pay $4.5 million to state, local and tribal governments to cover the cost of their emergency response to the spill, but the agency rejected $20.4 million in other requests for past and future expenses, again citing federal law.