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McCain Wants to Know Why DOJ Declined to Bring Gold King Spill Charges

Susan Walsh/AP

The Department of Justice has confirmed it won’t prosecute any of the federal employees involved in the 2015 Gold King Mine spill. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, Republican Sen. John McCain is demanding to know why. 

Sen. McCain wants to review the findings of a criminal investigation launched last yearby the DOJ and the Environmental Protection Agency. He says there’s evidence employees may have violated the Clean Water Act along with other federal laws in causing the spill. The senator says if a private business had been responsible for the accident, “the EPA would be moving aggressively to put that company’s employees in jail.”

The 3 million-gallon spill tainted Southwestern waterways including the San Juan River, and devastated several farming communities on the Navajo Nation. The tribe is suing the EPA for damages.

A recent estimate put the economic impact of the spill at more than $330 million dollars. The agencies have yet to release a final report on the investigation.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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