EPA Studies and Preordained Conclusions

With great fanfare the Environmental Protection Agency announced January that their “assessment” of potential mining impacts on salmon ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska had discovered unacceptable risks to salmon and their habitat (various drainages in the region).  The agency stated that they would be proceeding to take action under the Clean Water Act to pre-emptively halt action on the Pebble Mine project before permitting begins on the proposed copper, gold, and molybdenum extraction project.  Essentially, they studied three mine scenarios, none of which would be able to be permitted under either the state of federal systems and found them unacceptable.  No surprise, that.  

The study was greeted with great joy and celebration by the anti-mining groups.  It was not so well received by the rest of us here in Alaska, as it marks yet another encroachment of federal oversight into a mining district on state lands that was designated as a mining district decades ago. 

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R, AK) and Representative Don Young (R, AK) blasted the assessment and the process.  Mark Begich (D, AK) embraced the study, pronounced it sound science, and said he now publicly opposes the mine.  Begich is up for reelection in November.

When the EPA announced the assessment process in 2011, they couched it in terms of addressing local concern about the project, which they as the Rightful Stewards of the Environment simply couldn’t ignore.  As it turns out, that was all a big lie.  The results were pre-ordained and anti-mining groups were working closely with the EPA well before the assessment process was announced. 

Now, this is not at all surprising, given the revolving door between members of this regime and environmental groups.  What is surprising is that they have gotten sufficiently careless and arrogant that resource development people here in Alaska have copies of some of the relevant e-mails.

Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty wrote a letter to the EPA Inspector General on February 3, 2014 detailing the coordination between EPA officials and national environmental groups before the assessment process was announced.  Participants include but are not limited to current and past EPA employees, Trout Unlimited, National Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy, attorney(s) for local tribal chiefs, and at least one former EPA employee who also moonlights as an anti-mining activist in Alaska. 

What did the EPA do?  Paraphrased from Mr. Geraghty’s letter:

  • The US Fish & Wildlife Service created a document in September 2010 that indicates the EPA already determined they would veto the Pebble project pursuant to Section 404(c), and that veto would include a much larger area in southwest Alaska than the Pebble prospect.
  • The EPA was in close and frequent communication with anti-Pebble advocacy groups including Trout Unlimited, Dutko Worldwide, Natural Resources Defense Council and an attorney for the tribes.  It appears that the named individuals coordinated with EPA personnel to create an assessment process intended to preemptively veto the project.  A key EPA contributor coordinated timing and logistics for response.
  • They document the bias of a former EPA employee against Pebble and a proposed coal mine on the Chuitna River.  This former employee advocated for a preemptive veto of the project and was tasked by the EPA to develop, author and edit the assessment.
  • Trout Unlimited and the EPA coordinated a meeting in the Nature Conservancy office in Anchorage via a series of December 2010 e-mails.

You can read the letter here.

In the words of Mr. Geraghty “All of these communications occurred before the EPA’s announcement in February 2011 they would be conducting the assessment.” 

The Pebble Partnership also has copies of the documents and filed its own complaint in January.  Note that the EPA’s preemptive obstruction of this mine has already chased off one partner, British mining giant Anglo American, last September.  Other partners are also threatening to leave.  Once the capital dries up under serial obstruction by the government of the United States well before permitting has begun, the project will fail, which is the desired outcome of the greens.  Note also that product to be extracted from this single mine is within an order of magnitude the value of everything extracted out of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields since production began in the 1970s.  This is an immensely valuable project to both the nation and state.


So what do we have?  We have government employees who claim to be scientists working closely with environmental activists (also largely funded via EPA grants) to create a document with predetermined conclusions which they then call “science.”  Sounds a lot like what they have done since classifying carbon dioxide as a pollutant and the myriad of anti-carbon rules written since that determination.  Sounds a lot like what they have done with the listing of polar bears as threatened based on bogus counts of non-territorial animals.  A logical question to ask is if there is anything that the EPA does that is not based on fraudulent process, inside baseball with environmental activists, or conclusions that are not predetermined before the public “process” begins.

We can no longer afford to allow this sort of corruption and fraud to be committed, as it fundamentally undermines trust in anything coming out of Washington DC.  If we cannot trust the EPA to do its job honestly and honorably, why are we paying them?  Shut them down and put them out of our misery.

Finally, there has been significant money already spent and still at risk on the Pebble mine.  Anglo American in September 2013 walked away from six years and $541 million spent.  Other partners have spent tens to hundreds of millions more pursuing the project.  Should they be able to demonstrate active collusion by government and activist groups in opposition, abuse of the public and existing EPA processes, this should open the door to criminal and civil RICO lawsuits. 

The perpetrators may have put themselves and their organizations at significant financial risk with this particular stunt.  RICO carries a four-year statute of limitations and it looks like the state of Alaska has begun the process that may lead to those sorts of charges in the not so distant future.

Alex Gimarc is a retired Air Force fighter pilot living in Anchorage who blogs at Interesting Items and posts longer pieces at the Northern Right

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