Gina McCarthy on Toxic Waste Spill: Oops, Sorry About That

Next time you want to get rid of some toxic waste quickly and easily, just dump it in the nearest river. If the EPA finds out about it, tell them you’re really sorry.

It reminds me of what Lois Lerner said when she was being questioned about how many groups were targeted for special scrutiny. She said:  “I’m not good at math.” Granted, she’s a lawyer, not an accountant. But come on. There are many taxpayers who aren’t accountants (most taxpayers are not accountants), and if they mess something up because they’re “not good at math,” all of a sudden, they’re “tax evaders.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy assured everyone that she’s really, truly, deeply sorry about the toxic spill that happened in Silverton, Colorado at an abandoned gold mine. CNS News reported:

A reporter pointed out to McCarthy that if this damage had been done by a “private polluter,” a public apology would have already been issued by the CEO or other leadership speaking for the offender.

McCarthy said the EPA is “taking responsibility” and that in hindsight the agency will work to restore the public’s confidence that it has “the ability as well as the capacity to move quickly.” followed up by asking McCarthy: “No apology?”

“Well, I’ve already said that this is a tragic issue – this is a tragic incident,” McCarthy responded. “I am absolutely deeply sorry that this ever happened, but I want to make sure that we react positively and in a way that’s credible and we move this forward.

“So I think we have people working in the region – we have actually people working in three regions, because it expands quite a bit, and there’s no question I think all of us feel badly that this happened – outside EPA and inside, and we’re going to work to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but we’re also going to keep our eye on the prize, which is to make sure that people’s public health and their natural resources are protected,” McCarthy said.

Both New Mexico and the Navajo Nation declared a state of emergency after the spill, which is moving toward Utah’s Lake Powell, the source for much of the water used in the Southwest.

National Public radio reported that water samples taken after the spill showed lead concentrations that were 3,500 times the normal levels near Durango, Colo. The wastewater also contained manganese, zinc, copper and cadmium, along with other contaminants, according to NPR.

Some people like Newt Gingrich think that there should be criminal charges levied against the government agency:

“Congress should hold hearings to establish who was responsible for the spill, and should pass legislation giving the administrator the authority to fire them. Then the Justice Department should bring charges. And Congress should insist the EPA find funding for the cleanup within its own budget. Holding the agency financially accountable for its own disaster would go a long way toward reining in a bureaucracy that is out of control.”

Obviously, doing something like that would make us all feel vindicated, like the scrawny kid who finally was able to beat up his bully.

But it would be effectively telling the EPA, “You can exist as long as you play by your own rules.” I’m not sure that that’s the best solution.

Liberals think this is all about conservatives wanting to get rid of the agency so that big corporations can pollute with no repercussions. Our desire to shut down this federal agency – along with the vast majority of our failed, over bloated, wasteful, inefficient, criminal and ineffective government bureaucracies – has nothing to do with letting giant corporations commit crimes with impunity. If anything, that’s what happens now. Large corporations can commit atrocities as long as they pay off the government. They can pollute as long as they pay their fines. That’s not okay either.

The EPA should be shut down, mainly because there isn’t any provision in the Constitution that allows such a federal agency to exist. Most of our federal government wouldn’t exist if we followed the law in the Constitution.

But because our society has grown dependent on such a large federal government, we’re sort of stuck where we are. There’s no way our current president or even the next one would shut down the organization with another executive order, undoing the one Nixon signed in 1970 which created the EPA. And Congress isn’t going to do anything about it either. Candidates might campaign on it, but once they get into office and see how things are actually done, they stop trying to do anything useful and just play the game.