By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker
Gov. Rick Snyder is testifying today at a Congressional hearing on the Flint water crisis.
The hearing, which will include the EPA administrator, is scheduled to start at 9 a.m.
“There are some serious question, and we want to get to the bottom of it,” Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz , R-Utah, at the start of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing.
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“Let’s be clear,” Rep. Elijah Cummings said. “This isn’t just on the EPA. It’s much bigger than that.”
Cummings said if Snyder were the CEO of a company that poisoned children, he’d be held accountable and would face charges.
“His fingers are all over this,” Cummings said.
Rep. Cummings called Snyder’s team a “vindictive administration” mired in “utter incompetence.”
“Let me be blunt – this was a failure at all levels,” Snyder testified. “I am not going to point fingers or shift blame.”
Snyder added: “This is America, and this should never have happened.”
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who also is testifying, said she regrets what happened, but indicated that her agency was acting on “misleading” information from the state of Michigan.
“We’re actively working on revisions of the lead and copper rule,” McCarthy said. We know that it needs to be strengthened.”
Snyder denies knowing about an outbreak in Legionnaires’ disease in Flint until early 2016, even though his administration learned about an outbreak in March 2015.
“I don’t recall any mention of that to me,” Snyder said. “This should have been handled better.”
Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., said he doesn’t buy that Snyder acted as soon as he found out about elevated lead levels in Flint’s drinking water.
“Plausible deniability doesn’t work unless it’s plausible,” Cartwright said. “You were not in a medically induced coma.”
Cartwright added: “I’ve had about enough of your false contrition and your phony apologies.”
Cartwright ended his testimony, saying, “You need to resign too, Mr. Governor.”
“I kick myself everyday for not doing more,” Snyder said.
Rep. Connolly, D-Va., blasted Republicans for “trying to make sure that blame is shifted” to EPA and away from Gov. Snyder.
“This is a failure of a philosophy of governance that you advocated,” Connolly told Snyder. “You ignored the residents of Flint.”
Connolly pointed out that local officials were stripped of power to protect their residents under the emergency manager act.
Snyder expressed outrage about the EPA’s failure to act.
“You can only take so much at some point.” “We needed urgency.”
Rep. Cummings said to Snyder: “I find it hard to believe that a crisis of this magnitude escaped you for this long.”
Cummings pointed out that Snyder’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, expressed concerns in e-mails about the elevated lead levels.
Snyder claimed he doesn’t remember specific discussions about the warnings.
Chaffetz asked the EPA administrator whether the agency did anything wrong.
“I would have hoped we would have been more aggressive,” EPA Administrator McCarthy said. “The EPA worked very hard.”
Chaffetz shot back: “You failed,” suggesting whether the EPA should exist.
Hearing is in recess until 10:45 a.m.
The hearing resumes.
Rep. Robin Kelly said to Snyder: “This really wreaks of environmental discrimination.”
“This is a sad day in this country, and I’m very sad about this, governor,” Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mi., said. “What does accountability look like to you?”
Snyder responded that he was misled by state experts.
“There was a cover up going on in the state of Michigan and the Department of Environmental Quality,” Gary Palmer, R-Ala., said.
Snyder said he’s asking state lawmakers for $232 million to fix the Flint water crisis.
Snyder acknowledged that the emergency management system failed in Flint.
The third Congressional member suggested Snyder resign.
“Don’t you have a moral responsibility to resign,” Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., asked Snyder.
The governor responded: “My commitment is to fixing the problem. … This has been the most humbling experience in my life.”
Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wi., apologized to Snyder for inheriting bad public servants.
“I am sorry it took such a tragedy to bring their incompetence to light.”
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., lashed out at Snyder’s failure to respond to the crisis sooner.
“The people in Flint were drinking high levels of lead in their water, and Gov. Snyder, you utterly failed in your responsibility to protect them,” Maloney said.
She added: “You dragged your feet because you didn’t want to take responsibility. … This is a national disgrace and a national scandal.”
Republicans continued to dismiss Snyder’s role in the crisis and blamed the EPA.
“I think everyone should respect the apology that you offered,” Rep. John Duncan, R-Tn, said.
Chaffetz slammed the EPA for not acting sooner.
“You need to take responsibility because you screwed up,” Chaffetz said.
McCarthy responded: “There is no way my agency is responsible for starting this.”
Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Missouri, said it was hypocritical of Republicans to blame the EPA for the crisis since the GOP has called for more limited federal government. He pointed out that Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have both called for eradicating the EPA.
Cummings said he doesn’t buy that Snyder didn’t know about the water crisis earlier.
“It look like everyone knew about this problem but you,” Cummings said. “You were missing in action.”
Snyder responded: “I have to live with this for the rest of my life.”
Cummings countered: “There are children who’ll live with it their whole lives.”
Cummings told Snyder to step down.
“You can’t be trusted,” Cummings said. “You need to resign.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.