Westerman Files Complaint Against EPA Over Gold King Mine Disaster

September 22, 2015
Press Release


WASHINGTON – On Monday (September 21), Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) filed an official complaint with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Professions and Occupations, regarding the August 5, 2015 Gold King Mine disaster.

Westerman, a professional engineer, said he believed the Environmental Protection Agency had been involved in the “practice of engineering” as defined by Colorado state law and were not competent or licensed to practice engineering.

“Because the EPA has not demonstrated a Colorado licensed professional engineer was engaged during the planning and design stages nor part of the Site Removal Team that was responsible for the Gold King Mine spill, the EPA was in direct violation of the Colorado statute, and should be subject to the same consequences any other entity in violation of this law would face.” Westerman’s complaint said. “I believe the spill could have been prevented, or at the very least, significantly mitigated, if the EPA had followed the engineering practice laws established to safeguard life, health, and property and to promote the public welfare.”

He went on to say the “EPA’s own review affirms my belief that those conducting the work had not adequately designed a reclamation plan that safeguarded life, health, and property causing significant damage to public resources. A licensed professional engineer would have reviewed risk factors and carefully designed an appropriate solution in order to avoid such an incident.”

The Gold King Mine disaster was caused after workers at the site near Silverton, Colorado, unearthed an underground chamber sending toxic waste into nearby waterways. Three million gallons was spilled as a result, polluting rivers in Colorado and New Mexico.

During questioning under oath, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy avoided answering Westerman’s questions regarding the use of engineers in the design phase of the Gold King Mine reclamation undertaken by the EPA.

“Because the EPA and EPA Administrator McCarthy have repeatedly avoided answering whether a licensed engineer was involved in the planning process or was present at the mine when the incident occurred and have also failed to provide any engineering drawings or design documents, I am filing this complaint to spur the EPA into action and to prevent another incident like this from occurring,” Westerman said. “The EPA is not above the law and they, nor any other federal agency, should blatantly ignore state laws put in place to safeguard life, health, and property and to promote public welfare."

A member of the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Space, Science, and Technology, Westerman is a professional engineer with over 22 years of private engineering practice.

Document: Division of Professions and Occupations Complaint Form (.pdf)
Document: Official Complaint with Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Professions and Occupations (.pdf)
Video: EPA Administrator McCarthy Can't Answer Questions from Congressman Bruce Westerman (YouTube)