Mine spill shows the arrogance of the Environmental Protection Agency

In August, we received news reports about a “massive” spill of highly toxic liquids from an abandoned mine on the Western Slope of Colorado as a result of a “mistake” by a manager of a group charged with cleaning up the site of an old silver mine. It seems that in typical form, government employees with no experience in the matter at hand concerning a retaining wall of a slush pit, tore into it because of a small flow of water from it.

The result was a rather widely reported, then hushed up, spill of “one million gallons of a yellow liquid” into the nearby river. The whole river was pictured as turning yellow all the way down to where it emptied into the Colorado River where it was going down to Lake Mead, and thence to the Gulf of California. A later news story placed the spill at two million gallons and the last one seen by me raised that to three million gallons. That is 100,000 water barrels.

TV news showed people happily paddling in the totally yellow colored river, it appeared to be in kayaks, seemingly without regard to the postulated tonicity of the liquid polluting the river. Print reports quoted an unnamed expert as saying that the toxic heavy metals would be settling out and subject to dangerous pollution for decades to come whenever there were heavy rains that raised the flow of the rivers.

The mine in question has been sitting there, abandoned, for at least 90 years, since it was so before my residence was taken up in Colorado in 1952 and was well known and doing no one any harm. But our infallible Environmental Protection Agency just had to go in and spend millions to remove the perceived danger to the fragile environment. In my studied and professional opinion, it would have been far better, and at no taxpayer expense, to have advertised for private enterprise to come in and recover the heavy metals, which have intrinsic value, to be used in manufacturing. Now that they have been disbursed that option does not exist, since the former concentrated condition made it practical while the dispersion makes it unprofitable.

The above is just a further example of the complete arrogance of this department personnel and their incompetence, or their disregard of known facts in the decision-making process.

In another instance, they were carrying our the stated intent of PRESBO, during the 2012 campaign, to put the coal mines and coal-fired generating plants “out of business.” This despite the admitted fact that it would greatly increase the cost of electricity to the population and business. It thus appears to me that they have a policy of just making decisions and rules for the sake of doing so and to enhance their individual idea of self-importance.

Their rules in that area have had a rather major effect in our own State of Oklahoma, where the two major electric utilities have announced the shutdown of coal-fired plants. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission last year established rate schedules that served to prevent the addition of a third generator to a major plant and their purchase of an interest in an existing natural gas plant. In addition, our main hydro-electric state-owned utility is in process of closing one of its two coal-fired units and installing a gas-fired one.

To his credit, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has entered the fray and is challenging the propriety of the actions of the EPA in court. Unfortunately, far too many of the judges appointed in the last decades, since the Carter Administration ending in 1981, are mentally in full sympathy with the onerous rules of the EPA. None of them seem to be inclined to invoke the Constitution and rule that these nefarious rules are illegal because they have not been enacted by Congress, as mandated by the Constitution. It is very clear to those who will read it.