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WATCH: Gov. Snyder and EPA Administrator McCarthy testify before Congress on the Flint water crisis

Mar 17, 2016

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified before a congressional committee on Thursday, March 17.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held two previous hearings on the Flint water crisis. You can watch those hearings here and here.

Watch part 1 of Thursday's hearing below:

And here is part 2 of the hearing:

So what happened?

Republicans on the committee took aim at the EPA, and called for the resignation of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Democrats on the committee took aim at Republican Gov. Rick Synder's Administration, and called for his resignation.

Gov. Rick Snyder apologized for his administration's role in the crisis, but said he was misled by "career bureaucrats" in his administration, and called the federal government's drinking water regulation for lead and copper "dumb and dangerous."

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the "system failed" Flint, but put most of the blame on the state of Michigan and the inaction of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to resolve the problem. She said had the city and state followed federal regulations, there would have been no crisis in Flint. 

There were pointed questions for both witnesses, but most committee members didn't allow the witnesses to give them full answers.

Most spent that time expressing their outrage, rather than trying to get answers to their questions.

Each member had five minutes to ask their questions. Most spent that time  expressing their outrage, rather than trying to get answers to their questions.

Here are some highlights from the hearing:

  • In his opening statements, Gov. Snyder again apologized for the problems in Flint. He blamed career bureaucrats within his administration and a lack of action from the EPA for the lead problem in the city.
  • In her opening statements, EPA Administrator McCarthy placed most of the blame on a lack of cooperation from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. She said the EPA could have taken action had they been getting better information from the MDEQ.
  • In heated questioning, Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-PA, called for Gov. Snyder to resign. Cartwright pressed Gov. Snyder hard about when he knew about the problems in Flint. He quoted a letter that then-Flint-mayor Dayne Walling sent to Gov. Snyder in Jan. 2015 asking for Gov. Snyder to do more to address the drinking water problem in Flint. Gov. Snyder said his team was telling him the water was safe and that's why he didn't act. 
  • Rep. Justin Amash, R-MI, questioned Gov. Snyder on what he's done to change the culture in state government. A task force found that there was a culture of "technical compliance" within the Department of Environmental Quality in the state. Watch the exchange below:
  • It started as mild questioning, but Rep. John Mica, R-FL, turned up the heat on his questioning of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. He called for her resignation saying the EPA did not act after receiving Miguel Del Toral's memo in June 2015. The memo outlined Del Toral's serious concerns about lead in Flint's drinking water system. McCarthy said they were pushing the MDEQ to do more, but the MDEQ, instead, tried to discredit people and did not act to fix the problem.
  • "I can only take so much." - Gov. Rick Snyder
    After EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy continued to say they were getting bad information from the state of Michigan - and that they had trouble getting the state to cooperate, Gov. Rick Snyder responded with emotion. He stated he's taken responsibility and apologized for the problems caused by his administration.  He said, "I can only take  so much," and said the record showed that the EPA knew about the problems in Flint in early 2015 and did not act.
  • Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Virginia, pressed Gov. Snyder on why his emergency managers in Flint did not issue any orders relating to the safety of Flint's drinking water supply. His staff is holding stacks of paper that he says are orders issued by Flint EMs over the years.
    Credit YouTube - screenshot

    Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Virginia, had his staff hold up stacks of paper during the hearing. He said they were orders from the state-appointed emergency managers in Flint. These emergency managers ran the city from late 2011 until the spring of 2015. Connolly said not one of these orders addressed the water problem in the city - problems that started when the city switched its drinking water source to the Flint River in the spring of 2014.

  • Under questioning from Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-MI, Gov. Snyder said he "kicks himself every day" wondering what else he could have done to prevent the crisis in Flint. He again blamed "career bureaucrats" for leading him astray in the crisis saying he didn't understand the scope of the problem until it was too late. 
  • Governor Snyder admitted that the emergency manager system in Michigan failed "in this instance."
    Governor Snyder admitted that the emergency manager system in Michigan failed "in this instance."
  • Republicans on the committee pushed EPA Administrator McCarthy to admit that the agency failed with regard to the crisis in Flint. McCarthy said the agency spent too much time talking to state officials and should have acted sooner. "Do I think the system failed, yes," she said. McCarthy defended the actions of Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman, who resigned in January, saying she tried to get the state to do more. 
  • Rep. Buddy Carter, R-GA, asked why the EPA simply didn't warn people in Flint when they learned about the lead problem in June 2015. McCarthy responded by saying they didn't know how widespread the problem was at that time. She said they knew of a "localized" problem at that time. The agency did know that the city was not using corrosion control in the water supply at that time.

*This post was last updated on March 18 at 12:27 p.m.