Issa Subpoenas EPA for Pebble Mine Documents

March 21, 2014

WASHINGTON – After nearly two years of obstruction, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., subpoenaed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy last night for documents related to the proposed Pebble Project, near Bristol Bay, Alaska.

On March 14, 2014, Chairman Issa, Subcommittee Chairman James Lankford, R-Okla., and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, sent a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins, Jr. requesting an investigation into the EPA’s decision to rely on a rarely-used provision of the Clean Water Act to preemptively veto the proposed Pebble Project.

The EPA recently announced its intention to issue an unprecedented and controversial preemptive veto to prevent development of the Pebble Project, citing completion of the Bristol Bay watershed assessment. Documents obtained by the Committee show, however, that the EPA discussed vetoing the mine as early as January 2010, nearly a year before the assessment began (p. 29-30).  On September 8, 2010, an EPA discussion matrix compared the pros and cons of issuing the 404(c) veto, noting that the veto had “never been done before” and would result in “immediate political backlash” and “litigation risk.”

In the December 2010 funding proposal to “initiate the process and publish a CWA 404(c) ‘veto’ action” for Pebble Project, the EPA wrote, “While resorting to exercising EPA’s 404(c) authority is rare (only 12 actions since 1981), the Bristol Bay case represents a clear and important need to do so given the nature and extent of the adverse impacts coupled with the immense quality and vulnerability of the fisheries resource.”

The subpoena requests the following information:

  • Documents and communications relating to the EPA’s permit review, including any action under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

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