Can We Trust The EPA? Part 5–Alaskan Copper Mine Veto And Coverup

The EPA has put a stop to the development of the Pebble Mine in Alaska. The mine seems to possess a very high value. The mineral rights belong to Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. They have posted the estimated resources as follows:

“The 2014 resource estimate includes 6.44 billion tonnes in the measured and indicated categories containing 57 billion lb copper, 70 million oz gold, stock-vector-mine-cart-1487357813.4 billion lb molybdenum and 344 million oz silver; and 4.46 billion tonnes in the inferred category, containing 24.5 billion lb copper, 37 million oz gold, 2.2 billion lb molybdenum and 170 million oz silver. Quantities of palladium and rhenium also occur in the deposit

Why the EPA stopped the development is discussed in two posting by Kimberly Strassel in the Wall Street Journal. The first, posted on 14 May 15, is “The Greens’ Back Door at the EPA” and the second, posted on 21 May 15, is” The EPA’s Pebble Blame Game”. (Both postings are behind paywalls, but type the posting title into your search engine and enter.)

The EPA’s Region 10 (has jurisdiction in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington) personnel conspired with big Green to stop this mine. They began this activity even before the Pebble Mine Project made any applications for approval.   Strassel reports:

” The law says that Pebble gets to apply for permits, and the Army Corps of Engineers gets to give thumbs up or down. The EPA, a law unto itself, instead last year blocked the proposal before applications were even filed. The agency claims it got involved because of petitions from Native American tribes in 2010, and that its veto is based on “science”—a watershed assessment that purportedly shows the mine would cause environmental harm.”

Tom Collier was assigned to run the Pebble Partnership several weeks before the EPA issued their veto.   For a year now he has been working to uncover why the EPA blocked his proposal before he could even file a permit. According to Strassel:

”He’s now obtained documents that explain it. The agency acted for ideological reasons, and in coordination with green activists.”

“He’s filed a lawsuit questioning the EPA’s veto authority; another demanding hidden EPA documents; and yet another claiming the EPA flagrantly violated a federal law requiring officials to work with outside players in a public and structured way—not in secret. He’s sending info to the EPA’s inspector general, who is now investigating.

Mr. Collier also sought EPA documents related to the veto by submitting disclosure requests to related agencies. The National Park Service recently came through with a smoking gun: a nine-page “Options Paper” for the Pebble Mine, already in circulation by early May 2010. It shows the agency intended even then to veto the mine—a full year before it began its (sham) watershed assessment. The only question was timing

Meanwhile, emails show that in drafting the options paper EPA staff collaborated with Jeff Parker, an environmental activist and attorney who works with mine opponents. In June 2010, as the paper’s draft was being revised, Mr. Parker emailed EPA biologist Phil North (driving the veto process internally) and EPA lawyer Cara Steiner-Riley. In a message with the subject line “options paper,” he suggested how best to craft a veto. More suggestions followed, some of which made it into the final options paper.

In a Thursday interview, EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran told me that the events described had “occurred at a very junior level of staff,” whereas the “key decision makers” on the veto spent years “doing science,” in an “open and transparent” process. He said those decision makers had not seen the options document. He dismissed Mr. North’s interactions with Mr. Parker as “field staff” communications, and said Ms. Steiner-Riley had actually told Mr. Parker he needed to talk to EPA counsel, not staff at a “lower level.” When I asked how it made the situation any better that Mr. Parker worked with an EPA lawyer, Mr. McLerran repeated that senior people had not seen the options paper.”

Note that McLerran said neither he nor other decision makers had seen the options paper.

But Strassel reports:

On June 7, 2010, Michael Szerlog, manager in the EPA region’s aquatics resources unit, sent an email to a colleague with the subject line “Updated version of the Bristol Bay Options Paper.” The message mentions Mr. McLerran: “Here is the latest version for review prior to submission to Dennis on Tuesday afternoon.”

On June 15, Kendra Tyler, special assistant in Mr. McLerran’s office, wrote to EPA staff: “I know that Dennis would like a briefing on the options paper soon . . .” On June 30, Mr. North emailed colleagues to explain that: “The only time the RA [Regional Administrator] is available to discuss the options paper before he visits Bristol Bay is Thursday . . . ” Later that day, Matthew Magorrian, also in the regional office, told a big group of EPA employees that “DM already has draft of options paper.”

Strassel adds:

” The EPA is worried because it is getting blowback that goes beyond public disapproval of its abuse of power. In November a court ordered it to temporarily cease work on its veto, and the EPA inspector general is deep into an investigation. The agency is right to be worried; its Pebble veto is a scandal.”

An attempt has been made to keep this posting short enough that people will take the time to read it. Consequently, a lot of the important information in the Strassel postings is missing. If you can access her postings, I would recommend that you read them in their entirety.

Some thoughts on this situation.     The opening of the mine is controversial. Wiki provides the reason for the controversy:

” Bristol Bay is home to the world’s largest salmon run. All five Eastern Pacific species spawn in the bay’s freshwater tributaries. Commercial fisheries include the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. The Kvijack River has the single largest red salmon run in the world.‪[16]‬ The Kvijack drains from Lake Iliamna, which is downstream of the deposit. Along with herring and other fisheries, salmon account for nearly 75% of local jobs.‪[17]‬”

 This is the issue. The Pebble mine is on the Bristol Bay and the question is —- will acid runoff from the mine decimate the salmon run? The potential operators of the mine say they can manage this so that they do not do harm to the salmon run. A serious examination and evaluation of the solutions are needed to determine if the mine can be permitted.

This is not a case of Sue and Settle but it is a case of the EPA working in concert with Big Green and excluding everyone else. It is also appears to be a cover up now underway.   The courts need to hand out some serious penalties to stop the EPA from operating outside the law.



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