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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and EPA head Gina McCarthy were grilled before a House committee hearing today over their handling of lead tainted water in Flint, Michigan. The hearings were the third held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee since the crisis made national news late last year.

In a rare display of bipartisan rage, both Republicans and Democrat committee members berated Snyder and the EPA for their handling of the lead poisoning crisis. In his opening statements, committee chair Jason Chaffetz expressed disgust at the disregard for Flint’s water quality, as revealed in internal EPA emails. “I’m not so sure Flint is the community we want to go out on a limb for,” read one internal EPA email written before the crisis became national news. “Are you kidding me?” he responded, after displaying that email to the room. He said there were numerous emails that have expressed the same sentiment.

Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings was equally angered by the inaction of the EPA, although he reserved his harshest criticism for Michigan’s governor. “There’s no doubt in my mind that if a corporate CEO had done what Governor Snyder’s administration had done, he would be hauled up on criminal charges,” he said. Cummings had berated Snyder for running his state like a corporation.

Cummings pinned blame for the crisis squarely on Snyder and his administration, from approving the switch to Flint River’s contaminated water to overriding a city council vote to return Flint to Detroit’s cleaner drinking water system to systematic disregard for complaints raised by residents over the dirty water. “His fingerprints are all over this,” Cummings said.

Snyder’s administration is already subject to investigation regarding Flint’s poisoned water. Todd Flood, special counsel to the state attorney general’s office, said that he was not ruling out the possibility of manslaughter charges being made once the investigation concluded.

Snyder, for his part, denied responsibility, saying the state’s Department of Environmental Quality consistently maintained that the water was safe to drink. “It was only on October 1, 2015 that I learned our state experts were wrong,” he told the committee. “On that day, I took immediate action.”

Other Democrats also joined in on berating Snyder. Pennsylvania Democrat Matt Cartwright, after spending much of his allotted time making the Michigan governor admit guilt to various aspects of the Flint water crisis, said that Snyder should resign due to the overwhelming amount of local reporting on the city’s water quality, which he chose to ignore until it became national news. “Plausible deniability only works when it’s plausible and I’m not buying that you didn’t know about any of this until October 2015,” said Cartwright, cutting off Snyder. “You were not in a medically induced coma for a year.”

According to a timeline by the Detroit Free Press, there had been numerous boiled water advisories in Flint starting in August 2014, barely six months following the city’s switch to the Flint River as its water source. Then in October, General Motors’ Flint plant announced it was switching out of the city’s water supply, because Flint’s water was causing metal parts to corrode. In January 2015, the city warned its residents of elevated levels of a liver and kidney damaging chemical present in the disinfectant used to treat the city’s water.

That same month, the city’s emergency manager, Darnell Earley rejected an offer to reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water system. The timeline revealed constant efforts by the DEQ and Governor Snyder to downplay concerns by Flint residents and the EPA on the quality of Flint’s drinking water.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was also made to testify in front of the committee. She cast blame on the state-appointed emergency managers — already unpopular with voters who rejected their mandate — as the ones who advised that Flint switch its water supply as a cost cutting measure. “The state of Michigan approved that decision without requiring corrosion control treatment,” she said, shifting blame onto state authorities, rather than her agency. “The state provided our regional office with confusing, incomplete and absolutely incorrect information.” She called the crisis a “missed opportunity” for the EPA to address the problem.

But that wasn’t enough for some lawmakers. Michigan Democrat Robin Kelly accused the EPA of abetting “environmental racism,” given the majority of Flint’s residents are black. Committee chairman Chaffetz told McCarthy that he thought she should resign. “You had the authority and the backing of the federal government, and you did not act,” he said. “If you want to do the courageous thing, then you should resign too.”

It seems unlikely that either Snyder or McCarthy will resign, given they haven’t already. A rough day in front of a House committee is unlikely to change that. And while they may have been comfortable drinking their bottled water through the duration of the hearings, thousands of Flint residents indefinitely remain without clean water to bathe in and cook with.

Photo: The top of the Flint Water Plant tower as seen in Flint, Michigan. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/Files

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19 responses to “Governor Snyder And EPA Head Berated During Committee Hearing”

  1. Dominick Vila says:

    There is no doubt that government at all levels, and the utility company, failed the people of Flint. The part is that is being ignored is the irresponsibility of those who refused to invest in infrastructure, and whose decision is the root cause for tragedies like this.
    Our potable water supplies, power system, roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, ports, airports, are in an advanced state of disrepair. Our rail system, and public transportation, are old an inadequate. Our entire environment has been compromised by the use of pesticides and insecticides. The consequences of GMOs has not been studied as well as it should be. The USA stands alone among industrialized nations in preparing for the effects of climate change, and transitioning to alternative energy sources.
    Instead of investing in the things we need to prevent tragedies such as the one in Flint, and be able to compete in a world that is rapidly changing, our elected officials continue to focus on tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthy, dependence on deficit spending, deregulation, and reliance on economic concepts that have already proven to be impractical.
    There is more to the Flint tragedy than the State and Local governments, or the EPA’s failure to react promptly. Look for the root cause of the problems we are experiencing, and replace the culprits with government officials willing and able to do the right thing.

    • bobnstuff says:

      We have the best government money can buy. Look at where the money goes and just what is important, we have fantastic sport arenas build with public funds but high ways leading to them that are fulling apart. We give welfare to companies that don’t need it but try to cut help to real people. We spend money on expensive war machines but not on the men who do the fighting and dying. Flint is just one of hundreds of cities we are poisoning everyday. We can blame government but it’s the voters that are really at fault for electing and re-electing people who only serve themselves and their rich friends.

      • RED says:

        Yep, government is working just fine for the people who own it. And don’t worry those people can just move to another country once they’ve destroyed this one so bad that it actually starts to affect them. Yep, the Ayn Randers will be just fine and really that’s all the matters, right?

      • Manetric Douglas says:

        I agree with you but it’s the fault of the media as well as voters. We get our information from the media and then we are supposed to go and do research to make better informed decisions in regards to voting. The media is so neutral (slanted towards conservatism if you ask me) that when blame is clearly obvious they still will give you blandness. For ex. the media still runs the talking point that it’s President Obama’s fault for not uniting the parties and get work done like he ran on. But they forget to constantly add that republican’s decided, on the day of his inauguration, to bedevil (my words)him at every turn and not allow him a win. How is someone supposed to work across the aisle with people keeping their hands behind their back?

        • bobnstuff says:

          The media has never been neutral. I live in an area that has two papers, one that is strong Democratic in view and another that years ago the Mellon family bought to be a Republican voice. Bias in the media has been around as long as there has been a media. The question is can you blame the media or those that support it with the consumption of it. We pick the media and tend to look for that source that agrees with our view of the world. Fox News only exist because people watch it. It’s kind of which came first the chicken or the egg. On any given day I will read pieces from six to ten papers plus a number of other sources. I work for a balance but it’s not easy. Most major outlets are owned by conservative companies. We live in a time that has people very busy doing nothing, Sports, Gaming, reality TV and social media. We are dumbing down our citizens and making it easier for a few to control our world. More then ever we are creating a society of sheep and they are lining up to be slaughtered. As much as I would like to blame the Republicans for dividing the country it’s still the voters that are letting them get away with it. I hope this year it will change and the voters will put people in that want to make thing work but we will see.

    • dpaano says:

      And look at Cruz….he wants to do away with the IRS, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Commerce Department, the Energy Dept., and the EPA. I have NO idea what he has in mind, if he has anything in mind, to replace these departments and their very important functions. Unfortunately, the GOP has gutted most of these departments of employees due to their “smaller government” mantra, giving them little or no way of dealing with the problems that they are supposed to be dealing with. For example, the IRS has been so depleted of employees that they don’t even have enough agents to look for tax fraud or do anything about it. How is that supposed to help our government? But, the GOP is the first to complain about people filing fraudulent taxes…..what a bunch of hypocrites!!!

    • Tinaddonald4 says:

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  2. yabbed says:

    I found the hearings yesterday to be an absurdity of the circular firing squad. What Congress needs to do is stop with the whining and move to appropriating sufficient funds to make things right in Flint. It’s nonsensical for us as onlookers to harp and pontificate at this point. What Congress needs to do is authorize the needed funds to remedy the disaster in Flint and provide for the ongoing care that will be required for the children who are so terribly affected.

    • RED says:

      Why Congress? Why not the State of Michigan? It’s their leaders who created this catastrophe, why do I , a taxpayer in Alabama need to pay for it? Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem paying for things we need in this country, I’m certainly not an ignorant Con. But maybe the people who voted Snyder in need to pick up the tab for his leadership and maybe they will think more about the morons they elect?

    • Joan says:

      Don’t you think that the state of MI should have to pony up to correct their mistake? I say that no federal funds should be used until all available state funds are exhausted. Governor Snyder has a rainy day fund, guess what, it’s raining now. Taxes should also be raised to correct the infrastructure problems this crisis has revealed. This was a man made disaster, so the men should have to do most of the fixing. Only after MI has exhausted all reasonable revenue streams should we use federal funds.

  3. Leftout says:

    Why should we have an EPA . The EPA budget is $ 10 billion , this money would be better used to re do the water systems where needed . Eliminate the EPA And dept Educ .

    Also It is up to general funds ( printed monies )) to be used for American infrastructure and jobs. These monies can be internalized like the Bank Bail out and never seen.

  4. FireBaron says:

    Ironic with McCarthy being grilled on her inaction by the same group of people who have repeatedly denied her the funding she needed for action.

    • CrankyToo says:

      I’m not buying that. The EPA may not get enough funding to cure all of our environmental challenges, but it does get funding. And any contention that it couldn’t allocate more of its (available) resources to an emergent problem in Flint is absurd.

  5. dpaano says:

    I’d put all involved in a single cell and give them nothing but Flint’s tap water to drink….let’s see how long they last!

  6. Otto T. Goat says:

    That UFO is poisoning the water.

  7. itsfun says:

    I have relatives in Michigan, and they knew in 2014 about the water problem in Flint. How can Snyder expect anyone to believe he didn’t know anything on 10/01/15? Snyder has tried to balance the budget in Michigan on the backs of senior citizens. He got a new tax passed for senior citizens only and got away with it. He ignored the will of the people when they voted down the emergency manager appointments in the general election. He got his lame duck legislature to pass almost the exact same emergency manager law that the people had voted down. They just changed a few words to get around the vote and will of the people. Snyder got his self elected by campaigning as a “nerd”. He is the south end of a north bound horse.

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