(Photo credit: Robert Glenn Ketchum)
The Inspector General found "no evidence of bias" in how the EPA conducted its assessment - a three-year, twice- peer reviewed scientific study on the potential impacts of large-scale mining on Bristol Bay's world-famous wild salmon fishery. "Based on available information, we found no evidence of bias in how the EPA conducted its assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed, or that the EPA predetermined the assessment outcome," said the report.
Instead, the report found that EPA followed appropriate policies and procedures when crafting its assessment, met the requirements for peer review, involved the public in the process, and reviewed and verified information in the assessment before finalizing it.
The report confirms the legitimacy of EPA's process in conducting its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. EPA's assessment concluded that "mining of the scale contemplated at the Pebble deposit would result in significant and unacceptable adverse effects to important fishery areas in the [Bristol Bay] watershed." EPA further found that the Pebble Mine would have "significant" impacts on fish populations and streams surrounding the mine site, and that a tailings dam failure would have "catastrophic" effects on the region. The assessment served as the bases for EPA's preliminary determination under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to place restrictions on the Pebble Mine.
The report also discredits the relentless, self-serving attacks on EPA by the Pebble Partnership. The Office of Inspector General conducted this report at the specific request of Northern Dynasty Minerals - now the sole owner of the Pebble Partnership after all its major investors fled the project (Mitsubishi left in 2011, Anglo American withdrew in 2013 and Rio Tinto exited in 2014). In an attempt to discredit EPA, the Pebble Partnership accused the agency of colluding with environmentalists and urged the Inspector General to investigate. (The Pebble Partnership has also brought a series of lawsuits against the agency, the first of which it already lost.)
But the Inspector General's report confirms in no uncertain terms that the agency acted fairly, transparently and scientifically in assessing the impacts of large-scale mining (like the Pebble Mine) in Bristol Bay. It also confirms the urgent need for EPA to protect the Bristol Bay region - and the people, wildlife and economies that depend on the region's wild salmon.
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