Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released the results of a 20-month-long investigation into whether the agency had properly conducted a watershed assessment in Bristol Bay.
The Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment was conducted in response to a petition from several Alaska Native tribes, who asked EPA to use the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to provide protections for the Bristol Bay watershed.
The Inspector General's conclusion – based on records it could obtain – was that there was no evidence of bias or wrong-doing on the EPA's part. However, it did find that a former employee may have misused his position when using his personal email to comment on a draft of the Alaska Native tribes’ 404(c) petition before it was submitted to EPA. The OIG also reported that its review was limited because more than two years’ worth of personal and work emails were not made available from the former employee, who served as the technical lead on the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.
"Our report constitutes an independent determination as to whether the EPA adhered to laws, regulations, policies and procedures in developing its assessment of potential mining impacts on ecosystems in Bristol Bay," said Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins.
Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP), which owns the Pebble mining prospect in Bristol Bay, had made repeated requests and complaints to the OIG as part of a multi-pronged offensive aimed at stopping EPA's efforts to issue protections for the area. In May 2014 the OIG announced it would investigate whether the agency followed laws, regulations, policies and procedures when it developed the assessment. Today's report represents the conclusion of that investigation. However, litigation brought by PLP over EPA's conduct is still ongoing.
As we look back on Pebble news for 2015, the year was mainly about fundraising and litigation. Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) owner Northern Dynasty continued to look for investors, along with opportunities for raising money to fund its legal battle against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. PLP pursued three suits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, two of which continue into 2016. Local groups opposed to the mine raised concerns about potential harm caused by PLP's exploration activities at the deposit site. And in Bristol Bay in 2015, you could get a deal on heavy equipment, as PLP sold off property it's no longer using.
Last year Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) CEO Tom Collier announced the company would be “punching back” against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its efforts to limit development at the Pebble deposit in Bristol Bay.
In addition to litigation (ongoing) and a call for the EPA Inspector General to investigate the federal agency (also ongoing), PLP hired William S. Cohen to complete an independent review of EPA’s actions in conducting its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.
In the report, released Tuesday, Cohen concludes that, “EPA’s application of Section 404(c) prior to the filing of a permit application was not fair to all stakeholders.” He called for “the EPA’s Inspector General and Congress to continue to explore… questions which might further illuminate EPA’s motives and better determine whether EPA has met its core obligations of government service and accountability.”
This week's news related to the proposed Pebble mine includes the release William Cohen's report on the EPA and details about Pebble Partnership's litigation activity as it pursues a case against the EPA.
Secretary William S. Cohen Releases The Report Of His Independent Review Concerning The United States Environmental Protection Agency's Actions In Connection With Its Evaluation Of Potential Mining In Alaska's Bristol Bay Watershed (October 6, 2015 – PR Newswire)
Last spring the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) hired William S. Cohen to conduct an independent review of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and development of the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. Cohen released the 364-page report today. In it, he calls for further investigation of the EPA by Congress and EPA’s Inspector General.
Pebble subpoenas emails, documents from anti-mine activists (October 3, 2015 – Alaska Dispatch News)
Alaska Dispatch News reports on the Pebble Limited Partnership’s (PLP) pursuit of information over the last decade from more than 60 individuals. PLP hopes to support its case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which was in the process of development limitations on development at Pebble when a federal judge approved a preliminary injunction against continuing that process until litigation had been resolved. As part of the litigation, PLP has issued subpoenas to EPA employees, former employees, scientists, activists who have spoken out against the mine, and others. Some individuals have filed documents attempting to quash the subpoena requests, citing – among other reasons – the broad scope of the subpoena (covering 11 years worth of emails), burden and cost associated with a response, and negative impact it would have on their future participation in publically debated issues.
About Pebble Watch
Pebble Watch is an impartial, educational and fact-based initiative of the BBNC Land Department to disseminate information regarding the proposed Pebble Mine project to BBNC shareholders and interested parties.