Wednesday, May 11, 2016

EPA Pebble Activity Remains Under Scrutiny

A congressional committee looking into the role of the US Environmental Protection Agency in the proposed Pebble mine plans to continue its oversight, after hearing recent testimony from the agency, a congressional aide says.

While the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has no specific plans for additional hearings or depositions at this time, the committee continues to receive documents from the EPA related to the agency’s actions on Pebble and will continue its oversight, said Smith aide Alicia Criscuolo, responding in early May to a query on further hearings.

The committee has focused on examining the EPA’s intention to use section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to block the Pebble Mine from development before the project applies for any permits.

The proposed mine lies near headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. The fishery is crucial to the economy and culture of Bristol Bay, as well as the region’s abundant wildlife.

Proponents of the massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine, which would be built by a subsidiary of Hunter Dickinson Inc. a diversified global mining group in Vancouver, British Columbia, contend that the mine can be constructed and operated in harmony with the multi-million dollar fishery. Opponents contend that the mine could adversely impact habitat critical to millions of salmon.

After hearing testimony on April 28 from Dennis McLerran, administrator for EPA Region 10 in Seattle, and discussing a recent deposition of retired EPA ecologist Phil North, the Texas Republican issued a statement saying that documents obtained by the committee and North’s deposition “make clear that the decision to undertake a pre-emptive action to limit the Pebble mine was not based on sound science.”

North’s deposition, as well as McLerran’s testimony, are posted online at

Smith said the committee concludes that EPA employees violated ethical standards and that if they allow the EPA to pursue this path of action “the agency will have set the precedent to tell states, local governments, and even private citizens how they can develop their land before a permit application has ever been filed.”

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