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EDITORIAL: Special privilege for the governing class

By: The Gazette editorial board
October 14, 2016 Updated: October 14, 2016 at 3:54 pm
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Pollute water and the EPA will have no mercy. It will charge, convict, fine, imprison and alert the media. Unless the polluter is the EPA.

Here's what happened to private citizen Benedict Lupo, owner of Hardrock Excavating, after he released brine and drill cuttings into Ohio's Mahoning River.

Lupo "was sentenced in August 2014 to 28 months in prison and fined $25,000 for violating the Clean Water Act," boasts a blurb in the enforcement section of the EPA's website.

Another enforcement vignette tells the plight of Ray Caldwell, who was sentenced to 27 months in prison after dumping septic tank and grease trap waste into an unauthorized sewer port, and trying to cover it up. In addition to prison, Caldwell was fined $250,000.

Joseph David Robertson was sentenced in July to 18 months in prison because his nonpermitted stock ponds discharged "fill material" into a Montana tributary stream and adjacent wetlands. Robertson will be almost 80 when he begins three years of post-prison supervised parole.

Water is important, and the EPA wants us to know it. That's why the agency sets frightening examples when it catches water polluters.

Few toxic spills into water top the EPA's event at the Gold King Mine near Durango in August 2015. An EPA contract crew released an estimated 3 million gallons of mine waste into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

The sludge was tainted with heavy metals and turned the rivers orange.

Wednesday, the EPA's Office of Inspector General announced the Department of Justice would pursue no criminal charges or penalties against the on-site "EPA employee" overseeing the operation when the spill began.

The Durango Herald reports the decision outraged members of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, including Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. They, along with House Oversight and Government Reform Interior Subcommittee Chairwoman Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, demanded the Department of Justice explain its decision.

They issued a statement saying the Office of Inspector General had evidence of criminal wrongdoing, including false statements and violations of the Clean Water Act.

"The Department of Justice looks like it is going easy on its colleagues in EPA," they wrote in a statement. "Its lack of action on these charges gives the appearance of hypocrisy, and seems to indicate that there is one set of rules for private citizens and another for the federal government."

It's like that FBI report about Hillary Clinton's "extremely careless" handling of national secrets that led to no penalty, fine or prosecution.

The EPA routinely imprisons and fines private citizens for violations of the Clean Water Act that are hundreds of times smaller than the Gold King Mine fiasco. When the EPA causes harm, the agency downplays the damage and holds no one accountable.

The United States is unique in the world for ensuring individuals equal protection under the law. Public employees should be held to the same standards as the people they are paid to serve.

Of late, Americans sense corruption in the form of special new privilege for the governing class.

the gazette editorial board

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