(CNSNews.com) – At a congressional field hearing in Phoenix, Ariz., on Friday, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the EPA has not fulfilled its promise to pay for damages done to Native American lands from the toxic spill of mine waste into waterways in Colorado, which eventually polluted water in that state, New Mexico, and Utah, and Navajo Nation land in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.
“EPA has not lived up to its word,” Begaye said in a video posted on the Arizona Republic website. “ It’s been empty promise after empty promise.”
“We’ve had numerous meetings where promises were made and none of it EPA has lived up to,” Begaye said.
The Navajo-Hopi Observer reported on Tuesday that the Navajo Nation has requested more than $2 million in reimbursements. The EPA has offered $157,000, which totals less than 8 percent of expenses incurred, according to Begaye’s office.
The amount was offered as a grant and not recognized as reimbursement, the news outlet reported.
In Begaye's written statement from the hearing, he listed eight requests: a fair and independent assessment of the role the EPA played in events leading up to the Gold King Mine Spill; resources to conduct the Nation's own monitoring, testing and assessment of water, soil and crops; funds dedicated to emergency preparedness for future environmental disasters; the EPA's full support of listing the Upper Animas Mining District on the National Priorities List; and resources to stabilize farming along the San Juan River.
During the hearing, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCOIA) would continue holding hearings until all questions are answered and compensation was awarded to the Nation.
"An economic analyst told the SCOIA that the Navajo Nation lost $982,000 in agriculture production during the first two weeks of the spill," McCain said, adding that costs from the disaster could reach upward of $335 million.
The Navajo-Hopi Observer also reported that McCain said because of the EPA's lack of action and forthright involvement, a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice is merited and should occur.