Washington, D.C. – The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today held a hearing to review actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to block the Pebble Mine from development before the project even applied for any permits. Witnesses today said that EPA did not rely on sound science in deciding to undertake a pre-emptive action to limit the Pebble Mine.

Chairman Smith: “Allowing EPA to proceed in this pre-emptive fashion raises many concerns about the due process that should be afforded to those who apply for permits under the Clean Water Act. Moreover, it appears that the EPA will use this case as precedent to block additional projects throughout the United States.  The negative impact this would have on the growth of the American economy is profound. 

“If we allow the EPA to pursue this path of action the agency will have the power to tell states, local governments, and even private citizens how they can develop their land before a permit application has ever been filed. This is unprecedented and dangerous.”

In July 2014, EPA issued a determination using the Clean Water Act to limit development of the Pebble Mine before it had applied for any permits. On October 6, 2015, a report was released by the Cohen Group that raised questions about the fairness and biased nature of EPA’s use of the Clean Water Act with regard to the Pebble Mine.

The Cohen report found that EPA employees may have had inappropriate contact with outside stakeholders opposed to Pebble Mine and arrived at a predetermined conclusion before any scientific evidence was gathered regarding the impacts of the Pebble Mine. The report also found that these employees were instrumental in preparing the scientific assessment that EPA used as a basis for its determination. The Committee heard from the lead author of the report on its findings.

Witnesses today outlined what they described as a “massive” lobbying and public relations campaign and collusion between the EPA and outside groups to halt the Pebble Mine. Members questioned witnesses on several emails obtained by the Committee showing this collusion. In one example, EPA’s Bristol Bay project lead represented to opponents of the mine that while the EPA’s decision to block development “would be based on science – politics are as big or bigger factor.” The Committee obtained numerous examples of similar exchanges that show predetermined conclusions by EPA employees.

To better understand the EPA’s process, the Committee has requested a transcribed interview with Region 10 EPA Administrator Dennis McLerran. Staff will be meeting with him next week. Chairman Smith also said today that the Committee will schedule a follow-up hearing in the coming weeks to hear directly from EPA on these allegations.


Witness List:

Panel 1

The Honorable William S. Cohen, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Cohen Group
Mr. Charles Scheeler, Senior Counsel, DLA Piper

Panel 2

Mr. Tom Collier, Chief Executive Officer, Pebble Limited Partnership
Hon. Rick Halford, Former Alaska Senate President


For more information about today’s hearing, including witness testimony and the hearing webcast, please visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.