U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, recently criticized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its work surrounding the Pebble Mine, following a committee hearing with testimony from EPA officials.
A previous deposition of former EPA employee Phil North suggests that the agency decided to take a pre-emptive approach in limiting the mine based on third-party opinions.
“We may never know the true extent to which Mr. North and EPA employees worked with outside groups to establish a process to stop the Pebble Mine before it applied for a permit,” Smith said. “But we know enough to conclude that EPA employees violated ethical standards by giving outside groups unprecedented access to internal EPA deliberations, allowing for close collaboration on agency actions and strategy.”
While Smith acknowledged that EPA officials have said North played a limited role in the agency’s decisions on the mine, he reiterated his concerns that North opposed it and advocated blocking the mine among his colleagues.
“If we allow the EPA to pursue this path of action, the agency will have set the precedent to tell states, local governments, and even private citizens how they can develop their land before a permit application has ever been filed," Smith said. "This is harmful to economic development and dangerous to the democratic process. Science and due process should lead the way, not pre-determined outcomes by activist EPA employees.”