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Flint Water Crisis Hearings: Watch Rick Snyder Accept Blame, EPA Furiously Avoid It

Snyder says government screwed up, EPA administrator says she's not sure.

McCarthyCSPANMichigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy testified at a congressional hearing on Thursday about their failure to prevent and ameliorate the Flint water crisis. 

But only one seemed particularly contrite: Snyder. 

Democratic lawmakers who questioned the governor certainly thought he should resign. Similarly, the Republicans were tougher on McCarthy than they were on Snyder. But the most interesting and revealing moment came when Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican and chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked both Snyder and McCarthy whether their organizations—the state of Michigan, and the EPA, respectively—had made mistakes. 

After asking Snyder whether he had apologized—Snyder confirmed that he had—Chaffetz asked the governor this: 

Chaffetz: "Did the state of Michigan do something wrong?" 

Snyder: "Yes." 

Chaffetz: "Administrator McCarthy, did the EPA—in your mind, did the EPA do anything wrong?" 

McCarthy: "I don't know whether we did everything right. That's the challenge I'm facing." 

The exchange begins at the 1:17 mark

The EPA, of course, did plenty wrong. As Reason's Shikha Dalmia explained

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency that is responsible for implementing federal EPA environmental standards and ensure water standards, ignored citizen concerns that there was something wrong with the water they were getting from the new Flint River water system. The city had temporarily switched to this system after deciding against renewing a 30-year contract with its existing supplier, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department that wanted Flint to pay higher rates and more stranded costs. (This was like asking someone who is struggling to prevent the roof on his/her house from collapsing to pay for a lavish home insurance policy.) 

The EPA allowed the DEQ to perform a faulty test to measure water quality that totally failed to catch the problem. That’s not all that the EPA did wrong, however. Even after it realized that the DEQ wasn’t taking a simple step necessary to prevent lead poisoning – namely adding phosphorous – it did absolutely nothing. It didn’t go public with this information; it didn’t warn residents that they should take steps to protect themselves. It basically fiddled as Flint residents were getting poisoned. What’s even more infuriating? It would have cost less than $50,000 annually to add the phosphorous. 

The state of Michigan needs to be held accountable for its inaction. Keep in mind the state workers living in Flint received clean water a year before anyone in the government was even willing to admit the drinking water was unsafe. 

But regulators need to be held accountable, too. Snyder knows he screwed up, and has admitted it. Why won't McCarthy do the same? 

Photo Credit: CSPAN

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "Administrator McCarthy, did the EPA—in your mind, did the EPA do anything wrong?"

    "You heard Snyder. It's all the state's fault. You heard him say it."

  • Libertarian||

    McCarthy: "I don't know whether we did everything right. That's the challenge I'm facing."

    How long has it been since this crisis first hit the front page? How much longer is she going to take to decide what happened? That's one hell of a challenge, there, McCarthy. Hope your six figure salary is up to it.

  • Pay up, Palin's Buttplug!||

    She's consulting legal.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "The pipes in this building are pretty old. Maybe I should send a crew over to do some tests."

  • JWatts||

    "But regulators need to be held accountable, too. Snyder knows he screwed up, and has admitted it. Why won't McCarthy do the same? "

    Because she is an unelected bureaucrat.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Bureaucracy 101 - Never take responsibility.

  • Pay up, Palin's Buttplug!||

    Correction: Never take the blame even if you did it but always take the credit even if someone else did it.

  • Free Society||

    Why won't McCarthy do the same?

    Because the federal bureaucracy is nothing if not tyrannical children with a taste for the souls of plebs.

  • Lee G||

    McCarthy is full throated environmentalist who has spent her entire career in the bureaucracy. The idea that she would accept blame for anything is laughable. They just don't do that, they never do that.

  • Jerryskids||

    Jeez, you want two scapegoats for one problem? You got any idea how hard it is to find even one of those things?

  • ||

    Bureaucrats do not accept blame. It's one of the reasons they *are* bureaucrats. Blame can only be forced upon them while they kick and scream and fight and do everything in their power to avoid it. It's why they love rules. As long as they do everything by "the rules", they cannot be blamed, and they *crave* that.

    This is part of the psychology of the people who choose to become bureaucrats. It does not change.

  • Tundra, well-chilled.||

    It's also why they are way more dangerous than anyone else in government.

  • Pay up, Palin's Buttplug!||

    Is that a paraphrase of Sir Humphrey Appleby?

  • See Double You||

    They can also change their own rules at will by "interpreting" them, and they get the same judicial deference that they get when they interpret statutes - the ultimate FYTW.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    For the lulz.

  • colorblindkid||

    I'm sure the media will totally see this in the same way as you, and totally report how much shared blame there is.

  • Adans smith||

    Well,it got the EPA's gold mine fuck up out of the news.The EPA is run as well as the VA..

  • HeteroPatriarch||

    No, it isn't, sadly.

  • coloraDOOM||

    What about the EPA and gold mines??

  • Adans smith||

    They broke open a dam holding back contaminated water and it spilled into a river.Hell ensued.

  • ||

    But it was Capitalism's fault. Everyone said so.

  • coloraDOOM||

    That's what I've been told!

  • bacon-magic||

    Would.................. not.

  • Adans smith||

    You have chosen,wisely.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Katrina - Totally the President's fault.
    Flint - Totally the Governor's fault.

    Both - Totally the Republican's fault.

  • Jackand Ace||

    Indeed.

  • WTF||

    Welcome to Retardation: A Celebration. Now, hopefully, I'm gonna dispel a few myths, a few rumors. First off, the retarded don't rule the night. They don't rule it. Nobody does. And they don't run in packs. And while they may not be as strong as apes, don't lock eyes with 'em, don't do it. Puts 'em on edge. They might go into berzerker mode; come at you like a whirling dervish, all fists and elbows. You might be screaming "No, no, no" and all they hear is "Who wants cake?" Let me tell you something: They all do. They all want cake.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    But regulators need to be held accountable, too. Snyder knows he screwed up, and has admitted it. Why won't McCarthy do the same?

    Because she's unelected and sits at the President's pleasure. I'm surprised she showed up.

  • Mustang||

    Phrasing.

  • Jackand Ace||

    Oh stop. Snyder gets some kind of points for admitting what is obvious to everyone? What happened to the days Reason held politicians accountable for their performance? Do you know that the highest readings of lead were recorded this week? Still? And that people there still don't have regular deliveries of water? Is that the EPAs fault?

    If that was a Democrat governor you would be screaming about him. Your attempts to parse blame is ridiculous.

  • lap83||

    Any politician taking the blame for something is newsworthy. A Democrat taking the blame would probably be a sign of the end times

  • lap83||

    Also, Fuck the EPA

  • kbolino||

    If that was a Democrat governor you would be screaming about him.

    No.

    I realize this will never penetrate through your drug-addled skull, but it still bears saying.

    I am smart enough to evaluate the situation without rushing to find the first person of the "wrong" party to blame.

    Unlike you.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Of course, Snyder only has one fuck up under his belt, but the EPA pretty much pulled the same shit in DC too.

  • bflat879||

    With Obama, the buck always stops with a Republican. If you can't find one close to the problem, blame Bush. It's been Obama's MO since 2009 and it's continued to this day.

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