EPA inspector to scrutinize Pebble Mine assessment

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) internal watchdog is launching an investigation of the agency’s research into the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, which led EPA officials to begin the process of blocking the mine’s permit.

EPA’s Office of Inspector General told agency officials in a memo released Monday that its investigation will seek to determine whether EPA “adhered to laws, regulations, policies and procedures” in its evaluation of the mine.

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EPA released research in January that concluded that Bristol Bay, near the proposed mine, has the world’s largest population of sockeye salmon, which local tribes rely upon. That led the agency the next month to start the process of blocking the proposed gold and copper mine’s permit to dump waste into waterways, effectively vetoing the project.

Pebble’s backers accused EPA of a power grab and vowed to fight the agency internally, through lawmakers and in court.

OIG said it launched the investigation based on congressional requests and complaints to OIG’s hotline.

In its initial memo, OIG asked EPA to prepare a list of personnel involved in the assessment, a timeline of the assessment, stakeholders who were involved and an accounting of the costs of the process.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has also launched an investigation into EPA’s handling of the Pebble project and subpoenaed for various documents.