Gold King Mine Spill: What The Headlines Don’t Tell You.

If you’ve seen the headlines, you no doubt “know” that the EPA unintentionally caused the spill of more than 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into the scenic Animas River. With great glee, the so-called liberal media announced that the Environmental Protection Agency was responsible for polluting our environment.

But wait! There’s more to the story that the majority of the media haven’t covered.

There are tens of thousands of mines in Colorado and other states that are disasters waiting to happen. Most of these mines were abandoned by their owners after the ore ran out leaving them as ticking time bombs for the public to clean up. And it’s not just old mines which were dug in the 1800s. The Gold King Mine, while no longer operational, was depleted in the 1990s. And the Sunnyside Mine, which was leaking about 200 gallons of toxic water into the Gold King before the spill, is currently owned and operated by a Canadian company.

The two mines had become such a threat to the Animas River, the EPA had wanted to declare the area a superfund site, designated for extensive cleanup. But, worried about the impact on tourism, Silverton and San Juan County apparently asked the EPA for permission to quietly conduct the cleanup themselves. When they failed, the EPA stepped in last Fall. But since it was too late in the season, the EPA hired a contractor to seal the Gold King Mine. When they came back to unseal the mine and to contain the polluted water with a plastic liner, the dam holding back the water failed.

So the EPA, which is underfunded and under constant attack from conservatives who despise any form of regulation, is being blamed for the damage. How convenient for the right wing oligarchs!

After a constant drumbeat of hate directed toward the EPA and constant threats to further cut its funding, the GOP with help from the media finally found the story it was looking for…a story that would embarrass the EPA and turn the public against it. After all, who reads beyond the headlines? Who cares about another government agency? Who remembers what the country was like before the EPA; when the corporations were free to pollute without control; when the air in our cities became almost too toxic to breathe; when the chemicals in the Cuyahoga River caught on fire thirteen times?

Never mind that the EPA has become one of the nation’s most effective watchdogs to protect us from the greedy corporations defiling our air, water and food. Never mind that it does so against overwhelming odds – unable to hire enough regulators to oversee thousands of polluting corporations and individuals. Never mind that, prior to the Gold King spill, the EPA had cleaned up roughly 9,000 polluted mines in Colorado alone.

The EPA and one of its private contractors had an accident. Let’s crucify them. Not those responsible for creating the problem in the first place.

Department Of Injustice.

In my elementary school civics class, I was taught that the key to a democratic government was the rule of law; that everyone is equal under the law; that Lady Justice was blind to money, power and influence.

In other words, my teacher lied.

It wasn’t that she intended to. And, at the time, it may not have been a lie at all. What she taught was what the Founding Fathers intended. But the system has since been perverted. In far too many cases, the poor are rushed to “justice” through a forced plea bargain, or the court appoints an often inept attorney and they are swiftly convicted of any and all charges.

On the other hand, those with money can afford the very best counsel. They can delay trials for years. They can negotiate small fines to pay for their transgressions without admitting guilt. In the rare instances when they are convicted, they can file appeal after appeal. They can delay sentencing. And, if they are finally taken to prison, it is usually a minimum security “gentleman’s” prison that protects them from the general prison population.

The most obvious contrast between our two standards of “justice” involves non-violent drug users and small-time dealers versus the barons of Wall Street. As I’ve previously written, our prisons are overflowing with drug users and dealers serving draconian, sometimes life, sentences. In most cases, these people are products of impoverished families and communities. They are often people who never had a real opportunity for a good education or more productive lives.

In contrast stand the gamblers and gamers of Wall Street. Most grew up in wealthy families. They were sent to the best schools and universities. They have enjoyed lives of privilege based on using and taking other people’s money. They have learned to game the system. In the years leading up to 2008, they learned to steal without technically breaking any laws. They crashed our economy. They caused millions to lose their homes and their jobs. And, to my knowledge, not a single one has gone to prison. Not one has faced a trial. Not one has been charged with any crime!

Meanwhile, the Department of Injustice has worked overtime to convict others.

A case in point is Tim DeChristopher whose story is told in a documentary titled Bidder 70. In the waning days of the Bush administration, DeChristopher had the audacity to bid on oil and gas leases for thousands of acres of pristine lands in order to throw a wrench into an auction that was later determined to be an illegal attempt to reward Bush’s oily friends. Nevertheless, DeChristopher was charged with a federal crime. It appears that the Department of “Justice” wanted to make an example of him. The judge in the case refused to allow any testimony that might justify DeChristopher’s actions. He refused to allow testimony that others had bid on leases they couldn’t afford. He refused to allow testimony showing the importance of maintaining the beauty of the lands.

The judge basically ordered the jurors to convict DeChristopher and sentenced him to two years in prison. Those who arranged the auction which would have resulted in the destruction of some of the Southwest’s most beautiful public lands were not charged. The others who bid on leases but couldn’t pay for them were not charged. No one else was charged.

Certainly, that is just one example of a judge seeking injustice. There are many others. Five of them, who have decided to place the rights of corporations above citizens, are sitting on the highest court in the land.