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Critics attack EPA over ‘biased’ Pebble Mine assessment

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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The Environmental Protection Agency has come under fire again for citing research conducted by anti-mining groups in its second review of the Pebble Mine in Alaska.

“I am troubled that EPA engaged peer reviewers to legitimize six biased reports written by mine opponents,” wrote Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively in a letter to the EPA. “In fact, the peer reviewers themselves identified the biased nature of these reports, and their comments reveal that these reports have little scientific value.”

The letter goes on to list comments by peer reviewers alleging bias in six of the reports the agency cited in its second draft assessment of the Pebble Mine, which could potentially be one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines.

“These circumstances suggest that EPA chose to use them not because of their scientific value, but because they favor the conclusions that EPA wants to reach,” Shively added.

One cited report entitled “Comparison of the Pebble Mine with other Alaska Large hard Rock Mines” was described by one peer reviewer as “clearly intended to convince the reader that the Pebble Mine should not be permitted to operate.”

“I find the report, by its nature, to be very biased,” said one of the peer reviewers of another report cited in the assessment by Earthworks, a Canadian group which opposes mining operations.

Another report done for the Nature Conservancy, an environmental group, had the stated purpose of determining “whether salmon habitat could be affected by potential mining activity.” One peer reviewer said that “the conclusions of the report are meagerly supported by the evidence provided.”

Concerns over the EPA’s citing of biased and suspect studies in its second review of the Pebble Mine came to light after it was found that the agency cited research from environmental consultants who admitted falsifying a report used in a $19 billion lawsuit against the oil company Chevron.

The EPA cited research by Stratus Consulting and its managing scientist Ann Maest. Both Stratus and Maest admitted to giving false statements in the case between U.S. trial lawyers representing Ecuadorian villagers and Chevron.

Maest and Stratus claimed that they were misled by a plaintiffs’ lawyer when they provided an environmental report detailing the damage done by Chevron subsidiary Texaco to areas of Ecuador. They disavowed the report as “tainted.”

“The EPA’s decision to publish a report that relies on Maest’s research mere days after the firm and this individual have been discredited is troubling,” said Dan McGroarty, president of the American Resources Policy Network, in an email.

The EPA’s review cites two non-peer-reviewed studies authored by Maest, who has been hired by anti-mining groups opposed to the Pebble Mine project.

“Even before publicly admitting to falsifying research, Maest had been hired as a consultant by numerous anti-mining advocacy groups, calling her objectivity into question,” McGroarty added.

Republicans and mining groups argue that the EPA is overreaching its authority and trying to block a mining project before any actual plans have been submitted.

The EPA’s first assessment relied on the use of a hypothetical mine to determine that a mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska would impact wetlands and salmon habitats in the area.

The second assessment did not evaluate a hypothetical, but instead used “plans developed for Northern Dynasty Minerals, which has a stake in the proposed Pebble Mine; data collected by Pebble Limited Partnership; and its own experts to come up with three different mine scenarios,” reports The Associated Press.

“There are few issues that are more black and white than protecting Bristol Bay,” said Washington Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott. “EPA’s draft assessment and this economic impact study both confirm that the proposed Pebble Mine would be bad for fish and bad for fishermen. With 3,000 Washington state jobs at stake, we can’t afford the ecological or economic risk.”

“Attempts to prejudge any mining project before the full details of that proposal are submitted to the EPA for review is unacceptable,” said Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “If the EPA has concerns about the impact of a project there is an appropriate time to raise them — after a permit application has been made, not before.”

The EPA did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment on this story.

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