Administrative Law at Work: The Greens’ Back Door at the EPA

Environmentalists coordinated with the feds to veto a mine project in Alaska.

Mr. Collier runs the Pebble Partnership, which wants to develop a jobs-rich mine in southwest Alaska. For more than a year, he’s waged a hardball fight to uncover why the EPA blocked his proposal before he could even file a permit. He’s now obtained documents that explain it. The agency acted for ideological reasons, and in coordination with green activists.

In February 2014 the EPA took the unprecedented step of issuing a pre-emptive veto of the Pebble Mine, flouting long-standing law that gives the Army Corps of Engineers first authority over such projects. The EPA claimed it got involved in “response to petitions” in 2010 from Native American tribes. And it claimed it issued a veto because its internal watershed assessment proved the mine would do environmental harm. …

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. One reason listed in support of nixing the mine pre-emptively was that this would allow Pebble to “avoid spending tens of millions of dollars on a project EPA program staff believe should be vetoed.”

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.

Collaboration went both ways. Remember, the EPA claims it began its Pebble review in “response to petitions” from Native American tribes in May 2010. We now know the options paper was in circulation before that. Moreover, guess who put together the tribes’ petitions? Mr. Parker. Documents show Mr. North working with him to engineer the petitions months before they were filed. They show Mr. North providing Mr. Parker with information cited in the petitions. Mr. Parker sent correspondence to Mr. North’s home email address, not his EPA account.

As Pebble summed it up in a letter to the agency’s inspector general this week: “EPA gave anti-mine activists an opportunity to review, comment, and shape the strategy EPA would pursue to block development of the mine. Then, having decided that it would proceed to block the mine using a [pre-emptive veto], EPA sought to cloak its actions by recruiting the very same anti mine activists to ‘petition’ EPA to initiate those [veto] proceedings.”

Read the full May 14 2015 Wall Street Journal Article by Kimberly Strassel

The Greens’ Back Door at the EPA – WSJ


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