Earlier this week the Environmental Protection Agency released its long awaited assessment of the impacts of mining operations in the Bristol Bay area in Alaska. Unsurprisingly, the EPA concluded that mining would likely have a negative impact on Bristol Bay:
“Our report concludes that large-scale mining poses risks to salmon and the tribal communities that have depended on them for thousands of years,” said Dennis McLerran, administrator for EPA Region 10. “The assessment is a technical resource for governments, tribes and the public as we consider how to address the challenges of large-scale mining and ecological protection in the Bristol Bay watershed.”
As written previously, the EPA relied on a hypothetical mine rather than allowing the company interested in developing the mine to apply for a permit. This has been blasted by numerous supporters of the mine, such as Senator David Vitter (R-LA):
“EPA is setting a dangerous precedent by justifying its political prejudices on a flawed Assessment based on hypotheticals,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, who has lambasted the EPA in the past for wasting taxpayer dollars delaying the mine.
“Today’s announcement shows just how Obama’s EPA operates, choosing political motivation over giving a fair chance to businesses interested in investing in America and creating jobs,” Vitter added.
The EPA’s final assessment does not evaluate the actual mine. Instead, the agency looked at hypothetical mines based on mining scenarios and preliminary plans published by Northern Dynasty Minerals, the company backing the project.
The EPA would never admit to allowing political bias to impact its assessments. However, just today we saw e-mails released showing significant behind-the-scenes collaboration between the EPA and various environmental groups:
Emails show EPA used official events to help environmentalist groups gather signatures for petitions on agency rulemaking, incorporated advance copies of letters drafted by those groups into official statements, and worked with environmentalists to publicly pressure executives of at least one energy company.
Nancy Grantham, director of public affairs for EPA Region 1, which covers New England, asked an organizer for the Sierra Club’s New Hampshire chapter to share the group’s agenda so EPA could adjust its messaging accordingly in an email dated March 12, 2012.
It’s hard to imagine the Pebble Mine getting a fair shake under the Obama administration. So far, the EPA has declined an attempt to pre-emptively veto the mine, though this watershed assessment makes it clear that the EPA has yet again sided with environmental groups at the expense of economic development.