Watchdog reviews EPA handling of Alaska mine study

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 6, 2014 at 5:59 pm •  Published: May 6, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A watchdog plans to review the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's handling of a report on the potential effects of large-scale mining on a world-premier salmon fishery in Alaska's Bristol Bay region.

Congressional requests and hotline complaints prompted the audit, Ashley Sellers-Hansen, a spokeswoman for the EPA inspector general's office, said Tuesday. It will look at whether the EPA followed laws, regulations and policies in developing its report, according to a memo from the office.

The state of Alaska and the owner of the proposed Pebble Mine, Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., were among those who requested the inspector general investigate the EPA's preparation of the Bristol Bay watershed assessment. Both have raised concerns about potential bias within the federal agency, citing emails obtained through records requests, and the threat of a pre-emptive veto of the project before it enters the permitting phase.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, both Alaska Republicans, urged the office to investigate after complaints were raised.

The EPA said in a statement that it will work with the inspector general's office to provide information, but defended the report, saying it considered public comment and scientific data.

The "EPA made transparency and public engagement a priority from day one of the Bristol Bay Watershed assessment," the statement said. "It is a strong scientific document based on hundreds of peer reviewed studies."

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