Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials improperly withheld information from The Daily Caller News Foundation confirming its reporting that the contractor responsible for the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill was awarded nearly $2.7 million not long after the disaster.
The EPA internally acknowledged the award and crafted a response to TheDCNF’s finding, according to emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, but the response was never sent to the news organization.
“It just slipped through the cracks,” EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison told TheDCNF 32 minutes after deadline. “It was a mistake on our behalf.”
The EPA response uncovered by TheDCNF defended the funding by claiming that the contractor was used for disaster assessments, rather than cleanup.
“EPA’s decision to reward the firm involved in the Gold King Mine disaster shows they’re more concerned about protecting themselves and their friends than the environment,” Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of transparency group Open The Books, told TheDCNF Thursday.
The contractor – Environmental Restoration LLC – excavated Gold King Mine at the direction of EPA officials, which caused a three-million-gallon flood of toxic waste to poison drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation.
TheDCNF asked the EPA to explain the awards and gave the agency the opportunity to defend the funding. Agency officials responded internally almost immediately, but never provided comment for TheDCNF’s story, which was published nearly 39 hours later.