Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
Hurricane Matthew approached the east coast of Florida as a category 4 hurricane, having many bracing for the impact during this last week. The eye of the storm stayed offshore for the most part, but did bring with it intense rain and associated flooding along with wind damage. Some reports of 14+ inches of rain were noted in South Carolina and North Carolina, but these rains did not impact any of the drought regions of the Southeast. The storm pushed rain up the east coast and into southern New England. Significant rain also fell with a slow-moving storm system that impacted much of southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma, but it stalled out as it approached the Ozarks. The Pacific Northwest continues to stay active with multiple storms coming ashore and bringing rain along the coastal areas of Washington and Oregon and into the northern Rocky Mountains. Most of the rest of the United States was dry this week and the significant dryness over the Southeast during the last several months is starting to rapidly deteriorate conditions there with widespread impacts…
Temperatures were cooler than normal over most of the region this week with portions of North Dakota 6-9 degrees below normal. Areas of western and eastern Nebraska, along with eastern Kansas, were wetter than normal, with portions of southeast Kansas recording over 5 inches of rain. Drought is not much of an issue in the region and the only change this week was some removal of abnormally dry conditions over western Nebraska…
Cooler than normal temperatures were experienced over much of the West this week as departures of 3-6 degrees below normal were common. Most areas were dry outside of the Pacific Northwest and into the northern Rocky Mountains, where several storms impacted the region. Improvements to the abnormally dry conditions were made over western Washington and western Wyoming this week and a full category improvement was made to the drought areas of Montana…
Over the next 5-7 days, the storm pattern will continue to impact the Pacific Northwest, with significant rain anticipated along the coastal region from northern California to Washington. These storms will also impact the interior Northwest into central Montana and western Wyoming, bringing widespread precipitation. The Midwest and Great Lakes regions will also see precipitation as well as portions of the southern Plains. The Southeast looks to remain dry into the Mid-Atlantic. Temperatures are anticipated to be warmer than normal over much of the country, with only the areas of the Pacific Northwest being cooler than normal due to the anticipated precipitation. Departures will range from 12-15 degrees above normal for daily high temperatures over the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles to 9-12 degrees below normal over northern California.
The 6-10 day outlooks show that the warm October is anticipated to continue. Almost the entire country (outside of the Great Basin and Central Rocky Mountain regions) has a higher probability of warmer than normal temperatures, with the highest likelihood over the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Higher probabilities of above-normal precipitation exist for the Pacific Northwest and interior Northwest, High Plains, Midwest, Northeast and the western side of the Mississippi River Valley. Below-normal precipitation is anticipated over much of the Southeast and into Florida.
US prosecutors have declined to pursue criminal charges against an employee of the Environmental Protection Agency over a massive mine wastewater spill that fouled rivers in three states, a federal watchdog agency said. The EPA’s Office of Inspector General disclosed Wednesday that it recently presented evidence to prosecutors that the unnamed employee may have violated the Clean Water Act and given false statements. However, office spokesman Jeffrey Lagda said the US Attorney’s Office in Colorado declined to pursue a case against the employee. In lieu of prosecution, an investigative report will be sent to senior EPA management for review, Lagda said.
EPA spokeswoman Nancy Grantham said agency personnel would review the investigative report, but she offered no further comment. Members of Congress had pressed for a criminal investigation into the EPA’s role in the disaster. A review of the accident completed last year by the US Interior Department determined the cleanup crew could have avoided the spill but rushed the work. Several Republican lawmakers on Wednesday said the lack of a prosecution gives the “appearance of hypocrisy” in light of the Justice Department’s record of pursuit of criminal charges in other cases referred by the EPA.
US Attorney spokesman Jeff Dorschner declined to comment, citing the office’s longstanding practice of not discussing cases where prosecution is declined. The apparent end of the government’s criminal probe comes after the Inspector General’s Office in July said it had suspended a separate examination of the EPA cleanup program pending the outcome of the investigation. That separate examination will now resume, the office said. No timeline for completion was provided.
From the Associated Press (Matthew Brown and Sadie Gurman) via The Colorado Springs Gazette:
The apparent end of the government’s criminal probe comes after the Inspector General’s Office in July said it had suspended a separate examination of the EPA cleanup program pending the outcome of the investigation.
That separate examination will now resume, the office said. No timeline for completion was provided.
After a yearlong investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, having been presented the facts of the incident by the Office of Inspector General, decided on Oct. 6 to not prosecute “the EPA employee.”
The release did not name the employee.
The EPA’s temporary on-scene coordinator, Hays Griswold, was in charge Aug. 5, 2015, when a contract crew released an estimated 3 million gallons of mine waste tainted with heavy metals into the Animas and San Juan rivers.
Immediately after the announcement was sent, the Office of Inspector General’s spokesman Jeffrey Lagda posted that the would be out of the office until 2:30 p.m. Thursday. He later said in an email that he “cannot comment on the investigation at this stage.”
The announcement said in lieu of criminal prosecution, “the OIG will prepare a Report of Investigation (ROI) for submission to EPA’s senior management for review. The EPA is required to report to the OIG any administrative action taken as a result of the ROI.”
After the announcement, U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and House Oversight and Government Reform Interior Subcommittee Chairwoman Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, demanded the Department of Justice explain its decision to not pursue criminal charges.
In a Wednesday statement, several congressional members said the Office of Inspector General had found evidence of criminal wrongdoing, including providing false statements and violating the Clean Water Act.
“By not taking up the case, the Department of Justice looks like it is going easy on its colleagues in EPA,” the statement said. “Its lack of action on these charges gives the appearance of hypocrisy, and seems to indicate that there is one set of rules for private citizens and another for the federal government. The EPA disaster deserves the same level of accountability to which private citizens are held.”
The committees asked for a briefing on the decision no later than Oct. 26.
Multiple local representatives did not respond to requests for comment late Wednesday.
Republican Congressman Scott Tipton wrote in an emailed response, “This disaster and the EPA’s response or lack of response is bigger than any one employee and was the result of numerous failures at multiple levels at the EPA.
“I will continue to work to make sure responsible parties are held accountable and affected communities are compensated and made whole,” he wrote.
Instead of a criminal prosecution, the EPA’s internal investigators “will submit a report of an investigation to the agency that details the findings of our investigation,” OIG spokesman Jeff Lagda said in response to queries.
“The agency, not the OIG, will then determine what administrative action they may take against the employee based on that report,” Lagda said. “The EPA will have to report to the OIG what administrative action the EPA will undertake.”
The EPA’s quasi-independent OIG launched an investigation into the Gold King disaster more than a year ago. Federal officials later, driven by members of Congress, began a criminal probe.
The OIG is part of the EPA and investigates agency activities.
The OIG investigators “presented facts to the U.S. Attorney’s Office” in Denver “about whether an EPA employee may have violated” the Clean Water Act and the statute prohibiting false statements, according to a statement Lagda issued Wednesday afternoon…
EPA investigators now will return to completing work requested by Congress related to the Gold King Mine spill, Lagda said.
Sens. John McCain of Arizona and John Barrasso of Wyoming, members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, in May sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging a criminal probe.
Other federal agencies also have reviewed EPA conduct linked to the Gold King Mine. An Interior Department report issued last fall deemed the Gold King disaster preventable, the result of errors over many years in handling toxic discharges from inactive mines.
Click here to take a stroll back in time through the Coyote Gulch Animas River category.
Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” the Swedish Academy said on Thursday in awarding the 8 million Swedish crown ($927,740) prize.
Literature was the last of this year’s Nobel prizes to be awarded. The prize is named after dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and has been awarded since 1901 for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will.