U.S. House panel plans Flint hearing without Snyder
Washington — The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing Feb. 3 about the Flint water crisis, a committee spokesman said Wednesday.
The panel, chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, has not yet released details on witnesses for the hearing, but Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will not be invited to testify, the committee spokesman said.
Snyder said at a Wednesday news conference in Flint that he has not been contacted to testify before Congress on the Flint issue.
“The governor is working to resolve the Flint water crisis, which is the result of missteps of government at all levels — local, state and federal,” spokesman Dave Murray told The Detroit News last Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, the Southfield Democrat who is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Interior, formally requested that Chaffetz and Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis hold a hearing on the Flint crisis. She had urged both Republican and Democratic leaders to name Snyder as a witness and said she was disappointed that he won’t be among those called.
“I told them I felt that was unacceptable. It’s not a full hearing unless we get the people who are actually responsible for the decision-making at the table,” Lawrence said. “I am not going to give up until I feel the proper people have been called.”
Lawrence’s Jan. 12 request for the hearing included suggestions for local, state and federal witnesses in addition to Snyder: Dan Wyant, former director of MDEQ; EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman; Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of Pediatric Residency Program, Hurley Medical Center; Flint Mayor Karen Weaver; and Virginia Tech Professor Mark Edwards.
“The (committee) leadership has agreed that this situation will require multiple hearings, so we’re getting started,” Lawrence said.
“The Flint residents want the governor to come and testify on how and why this happened. It’s not to point the finger. The only way you can keep this from happening again is figure out what went wrong. Who did not stand up and do their job?”
The hearing is likely to focus on the inaction of Michigan and federal officials, who for months didn’t alert Flint residents to the health risks caused by a lack of water treatment to avoid the leaching of lead from service lines into the water supply. Former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant and department spokesman Brad Wurfel resigned in late December.
The state acknowledged in late September that Flint’s children had been exposed to high levels of lead in the drinking water. In October, the city switched from the corrosive Flint River water back to the Detroit water system until a new regional pipeline is completed later this year.
Hedman is resigning Feb. 1 as a result of her office’s handling of the situation. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has asked the agency’s Office of Inspector General to evaluate Region 5’s public water supervision program under the Safe Drinking Water Act, specifically its state oversight and operational responsibilities and performance.
Michigan has three members on the oversight panel: Lawrence and Republican Reps. Tim Walberg of Tipton and Justin Amash of Cascade Township.