POLITICS
01/29/2016 05:05 pm ET

House Investigates Flint Water Crisis, But The Governor Isn't On The Invite List

The Sierra Club is calling for Snyder to appear at next week's House hearing.

Al Goldis/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has not been invited to a House Oversight Committee hearing on the toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan, a decision that has left many puzzled and angry.

WASHINGTON -- The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, on Feb. 3. But the list of witnesses does not include Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), an omission that some are calling inexcusable.

The oversight committee has called a hearing for next Wednesday at 9 a.m. focusing on violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint. The Flint water crisis came as a result of officials in the Snyder administration telling city officials not to use corrosion treatment after the city began pulling drinking water from the Flint River. The water then corroded the city's pipes, causing lead contamination. State officials dismissed complaints from Flint residents about the water quality for over a year.

The committee released a list of witnesses Friday that includes Joel Beauvais, the acting deputy assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Water; Keith Creagh, the director of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality; and Darnell Early, a former emergency manager for the city of Flint.

The Detroit Free Press confirmed that Snyder was not invited to appear on the panel.

In response, the Sierra Club is calling on the House committee to bring in Snyder. The group launched a "Make Snyder Testify" campaign Friday, which will include press events and a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #MakeSnyderTestify.

"It's just amazingly inconceivable that the House Oversight Committee would hold a hearing looking into the Flint water crisis and not call the person most responsible for it happening," David Holtz, executive committee chair of the Michigan Sierra Club, told The Huffington Post. "It smacks of them trying to divert attention and accountability away from Gov. Snyder, and it sounds like it's a big partisan effort to get people's attention focused elsewhere."

Holtz said that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the oversight committee, is "abetting Snyder in what some have called criminal acts" by not calling him to appear before the panel.

“The state of Michigan is conducting its own investigation," a spokesperson for the House committee told HuffPost in an email. "Our responsibility as a Committee is at the federal level. We are looking at this from an operational standpoint and our witnesses reflect that.”

The crisis has already led to the resignation of the EPA's regional administrator, after it became clear that the EPA knew about the contamination but did not effectively address it.

A congressional staffer close to the process, speaking on background so as to be able to comment freely, said Democrats have requested that Snyder be called to appear. The staffer said the issue of who is invited to the hearing is ultimately up to the committee's Republican leadership.

Democratic House members from Michigan are also calling for Snyder to appear before Congress.

"Flint deserves answers from the state on how this terrible water crisis happened and what is being done to make it right," said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) in a statement. "Governor Snyder and his administration’s policies led to this man-made crisis and he must testify so that the whole truth can be found."

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), who serves as the ranking member on the oversight committee's Subcommittee on Interior, put out a statement this week calling for Snyder to testify.

“Gov. Rick Snyder was at the top of my list of witnesses due to the central role that he has played in this manmade crisis; from the decision to shift from Flint’s original water source for cost-savings to the appalling delay in response to months of complaints by lead-poisoned residents and their children,” Lawrence said in the statement. “I am deeply disappointed at the Majority’s lack of commitment to a thorough and meaningful hearing. A sincere search for truth and justice requires a full review by the entire Committee of the decisions and policies of all those involved."

Lawrence plans to hold a press conference with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus after Wednesday's hearing.

Snyder's office did not respond to a request for comment.

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