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.

United Corporations Of America.

Now that Congress has been bought by large corporate interests and billionaires, you can clearly see the GOP agenda intended to pay back campaign donors.

Some of the very first bills brought forward by the GOP include a bill demanding that President Obama and the State Department approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The stated goal is to “create jobs.” But given the fact that the pipeline would only create 35-50 permanent jobs (aside from the temporary jobs needed to build it and those who would be needed to try to clean up the toxic leaks), it’s really a blatant payback to the Koch brothers for supporting GOP candidates.

Of course, we’ve seen yet another Repeal Obamacare bill intended to throw red meat to the right wing base.

The GOP-led Congress has also passed bills intended to, once again, deregulate Wall Street and to eliminate the Consumer Protection Agency. Of course, this is a nod to the GOP’s big Wall Street donors and right wing billionaires. If signed into law, the result would be to unshackle too-big-to-fail banks and investment funds to fleece ordinary investors of their IRAs, 401ks and pension funds.

We’ve seen attempts to withhold funds from the Environmental Protection Agency. This, of course, is another bill to pay back the Koch brothers and large corporations, freeing them to extract resources without regard to the environment. And once the resources have been harvested, the public will be left to clean up the corporate mess.

And let’s not forget the other kind of GOP payback to which we have become so accustomed. The GOP is blocking confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in an attempt to force Democrats to sign a well-intentioned human trafficking bill that has been amended to further restrict a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. This is the same kind of nonsense we’ve seen since President Obama took office in 2009…a period that has thus far seen the GOP block dozens of cabinet and judicial nominees along with 375 bills, including 7 jobs bills and 2 bills for veterans’ benefits. (Indeed, half of the filibusters in US history have come during the Obama administration.)

Yet, instead of replacing the bums with people who might actually represent their constituents, a low voter turnout resulted in the GOPstoppers picking up control of the Senate!

And lest you think that this generation of GOP politicians is particularly disgusting, remember that others in the GOP have done worse. For example, Richard Nixon resorted to treason by undermining President Johnson’s peace talks with the Vietnamese in order to win a close election with Hubert Humphrey. Ronald Reagan intentionally aligned himself with racist Southern Christians (the KKK has long been associated with Christian believers) to defeat Jimmy Carter. And George W. Bush relied on his brother to suppress thousands of votes in Florida in order to steal the presidency from Al Gore.

Although GOP cheating was less obvious in 2004, there is considerable evidence of widespread voter fraud in Ohio, the state that allowed Bush to defeat John Kerry.

More recently, Teapublicans have gerrymandered congressional districts to make it impossible for Democrats to win. They have passed restrictive voter ID laws to prevent minorities, the poor and the elderly from voting. They have cut early voting hours and the number of polls in Democratic-leaning areas to make voting more difficult. They have skirted, or outright ignored, campaign finance laws that forbid cooperation between campaigns and PACs or so-called “education” groups. And their hand-picked conservative Supreme Court Justices have acted to strike down decades of precedent in order to open the floodgates of corporate and special interest money in support of GOP candidates. In doing so, two of those “justices” (Thomas and Scalia) refused to recuse themselves from the cases despite the fact that they personally stood to benefit from their own decision – a breach of ethics that would not be tolerated at any other level of the justice system.

As a result, things are only going to get worse.

The Costs Of Deregulation.

For nearly 40 years, those politicians who represent big business have been pushing an agenda of deregulation. They want to “get the government out of the way of business.” And they have been amazingly successful.

Since the push for deregulation began, we have deregulated airlines resulting in lost service, rising airfares for many, the demise of regional airlines and the mergers of the few remaining large airlines. We have deregulated commodities resulting in the run-up of costs for everything from electricity and precious metals to oil and grains. We have deregulated banking resulting in predatory loans by banks that are considered too big to fail.

Even for those industries that have not yet been deregulated, we have seen a series of coal ash spills, chemical spills, oil spills, manure spills, fertilizer explosions and mining disasters. We have seen Medicaid and Medicare fraud, abuse in private prisons, tax fraud, commodities fraud, and, of course, the worst economic disaster since 1929…the collapse of our banking system.

Our corporations have imported flammable clothing made in sweatshops overseas. They have imported toys colored with lead paints that are poisonous to children. We have seen the poisoning of our food system by corporations that cruelly confine animals in small cages then pump them full of antibiotics to offset the inevitable danger of diseases. We have seen thousands of consumers poisoned with carelessly handled meats, fish, fruits and vegetables. We have even seen our pets poisoned with pet foods containing uninspected ingredients from overseas.

Despite a growing trend of corporate negligence, fraud and abuse, we hear the constant drumbeat of Teapublicans screaming “over-regulation!” They claim that government oversight and litigation is costing American jobs. They want to give corporations access to the world’s most environmentally sensitive areas in order to extract oil and minerals while leaving behind a toxic wasteland of poisons and destruction. They want to allow oil companies to drill in the Arctic Ocean and along our entire coasts. They want to permit a foreign-owned mining company to extract uranium from the Grand Canyon. They want to permit a foreign-owned oil company to transport the world’s most toxic oil across the length of our nation. They want…they just want.

Even as this is being written, the corporate tools otherwise known as the Republican Party have a case before the United States Supreme Court that would emasculate the Environmental Protection Agency…an agency that is underfunded and overburdened by the callous actions of greedy corporations. If the Republican Party and its Tea Party Parasites have their way, they will not only render the EPA mute. They will further weaken the USDA by allowing meatpackers as well as fruit and vegetable packers to self-inspect their produce. They are already in the process of passing laws forbidding unauthorized recordings of the mistreatment of animals and the mishandling of produce.

There is nothing inherently evil about corporations. Many are socially-aware and contribute a great deal to our society besides jobs. But far too many are only concerned with their bottom lines and will trade long-term consequences for short-term profits. Further reducing or eliminating our watchdog agencies will benefit no one except corporate shareholders.