House panel asks watchdogs to investigate Army Corps of Engineers review of Alaskan mine project

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In a detailed letter sent to the offices of the Inspector General of the Ministry of Defense and the Army Corps of Engineers, the committee said committee members feared the corps had expedited the process of review of permits and the National Environmental Protection Act. at the expense of a thorough scientific review. ”

The controversial proposed Alaskan gold and copper mine received a major boost just two weeks ago, when the Corps released a final report concluding that the Pebble Mine would not cause damage to long term to one of the largest runs of salmon in the world.

The Corps declined to comment on the letter, citing the ongoing permitting process as saying it would be “inappropriate” to do so.

“We have received many media inquiries and questions from interested parties regarding the content of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EFSI). The EFSI is now available for review by any interested party, ”said John Budnik, a corps spokesperson. “The Corps Decision Record, when completed, will be a publicly available document. “

The findings of the Corps’ recent report were a stark reversal of the findings of the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency, which essentially blocked the mine’s progress due to environmental concerns, including the potential for permanent damage. to the pristine Bristol Bay watershed.Monday’s letter from members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee states that the Corps’ accelerated schedule “seems … inappropriate for a hard rock mine of this scale, complexity and regional environmental, social and economic impacts and potential states – especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. ”

The letter from the Control Committee also states that

The new Oversight Committee letter, citing previous CNN investigative reports, raises questions about the corps findings: “This reversal appears to have been motivated by political influence and not scientific analysis. ”

Citing a CNN report, the watch letter states: “It was reported that EPA staff revealed that this decision was made at the EPA on June 27, 2019, a day after the President met with the EPA. Alaska Governor Mike Dulvaney on Air Force One, which raises questions about whether the EPA’s decision to withdraw the proposed decision was arbitrary and capricious. ”

The new Oversight Committee letter was signed by President Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, and Representatives Jackie Speier and Harley Rouda, both Democrats of California.

A spokesperson for Pebble, which is owned by Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals, said the company is not opposing any investigation.

“We welcome any such review – especially one as unfounded as this,” said Pebble spokesperson Mike Heatwole.

“The (Corps) review was comprehensive and transparent. The review was not rushed, ”Heatwole added.

The Pebble Mine proposal has recently gained national attention. Last week Donald Trump Jr. and former Senior Assistant to Vice President Mike Pence called on the Trump administration to block the project, citing the Obama administration’s findings that it would cause permanent damage to a fishery in the very sensitive and critical salmon.

On Sunday, alleged Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said if elected his administration would halt the project.

After the House letter became public on Monday, Biden, referring to a CNN investigation, wrote on Twitter: “Bristol Bay is no place for a mine – our administration decided that in 2014.”

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