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EPA Keeping Lawmakers in the Dark

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

With a fairly bad year in 2012, the EPA is not off to a good start so far in 2013:

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has threatened subpoenaing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for documents regarding a potential Alaska mine.

Issa, along with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), said he wants to know more about the intentions behind a water impact test EPA is conducting near a discussed mine site in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

The lawmakers said in a Thursday letter that EPA’s actions have “bordered on the absurd” by since the committee’s initial May 10 inquiry about the matter.

“It strains credibility that EPA has been unable to provide a full response to the Committee more than seven months after the initial request,” Issa and Jordan wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

“If EPA fails to provide the documents as requested, the Committee will consider use of the compulsory process.”

Resourceful Earth has found a copy of the letter online, and it does appear that the EPA has been using some absurd delay tactics to avoid giving out information related to the Pebble Mine assessment:
More recently, EPA’s actions in response to the Committee’s request have bordered on the absurd. On November 15, 2012 Committee staff asked EPA for an update on its response. Five days later, on November 20, 2012, EPA staff responded that “we are not yet in position to provide another document production at this time … [but] should be in better position to provide you with an accurate evaluation of the timing of the next production toward the beginning of the week of December 10. At the time of this exchange, nearly six months had passed since the Committee’s original request; yet, not only was EPA apparently unable to provide additional documents, it required nearly four additional weeks to simply develop an estimate of when the Committee could expect the next production. The pace of EPA’s production appears to be an attempt to obstruct the Committee’s legitimate oversight of EPA’s actions regarding Bristol Bay.
On a call with Committee staff on December 11, 2012, EPA asserted that the total universe of responsive documents compiled by the agency numbered in the thousands. In its next promised production, on December 21, 2012, the Committee received only 170 additional documents from EPA, bringing the total number of documents received to still fewer than one thousand. As with previous document productions made by EPA, these documents fail to provide any internal communications or other documents regarding the decision-making process used by the agency with regard to Bristol Bay. It strains credibility that EPA has been unable to provide a full response to the Committee more than seven months after the initial request. In light of EPA’s unwillingness to complete this production in a timely manner, we ask that EPA provide the balance of the responsive documents as outlined in our May 10, 2012, letter by January 17, 2013. If EPA fails to provide the documents as requested, the Committee will consider use of the compulsory process.
I was not aware that the House Oversight Committee would be able to force EPA to provide the requested documents. This fact that makes the EPA’s refusal to provide the requested documents more interesting, because ultimately it appears that they would be required to do so if the House Oversight Committee and Darrell Issa wanted them to do so.
Additionally, from a paywalled news-source ($), we see that the EPA is comfortable with lying to reporters about their activities, and reporters (at least in this case) will go right along with it:

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency is reviewing the letter. She said, “Since we launched the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, we have regularly responded to requests for information and offered briefings about our work. EPA has been responsive to the committee’s requests for briefings and information and will continue to be.”

Yesterday’s Oversight Committee letter follows missives from the House Science Committee, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and Pebble CEO John Shively asking for EPA’s time line and details on the agency’s plans to submit its forthcoming final document for additional peer review (E&ENews PM, Nov. 30, 2012).

Either the letter sent to the EPA documented above is lying, or the EPA spokeswoman is lying. It doesn’t take over 7 months to provide documents unless you have something to hide. What will happen on January 17, 2013? We will keep you updated, to see if the EPA complies or if the House Oversight Committee decides to force their compliance.

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