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CEI Calls on EPA to Immediately Respond to Request for Correction to Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment

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The Competitive Enterprise Institute today announced it sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, demanding a response to CEI’s Request for Correction made on November 14, 2018 regarding the agency’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA) and effective rejection of the Pebble Mine project in Alaska. 

In a letter dated February 13, 2019, EPA promised to respond to CEI’s request for correction by June 21, 2019, but on June 20, 2019, EPA sent a letter stating an unspecified amount of additional time is needed to respond. 

CEI senior fellow Ben Lieberman said:

“The Pebble Mine project has the potential to provide critical American resources that will strengthen our economy. It would be an important source of copper, gold, molybdenum, and critical rare earth metals and create thousands of jobs in an economically depressed region in Alaska.

“The Trump EPA has delayed responding to CEI’s request for correction to the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, despite its promise to meet the required deadline. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued an April 24th memorandum stating that agency responses to such requests should take no more than 120 days. That deadline has long passed.   

“We are disappointed that the Trump administration is moving so slowly to correct the Obama EPA’s poor analysis of the Pebble Mine and fix the damage it is inflicting.”

 

Full text of CEI’s letter to EPA Administrator Wheeler:

The Honorable Andrew Wheeler
Administrator
United States Environmental Protection Agency

Washington, DC 20460

Re: November 14, 2018 Request for Correction Number 19002 Pertaining to the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment

Dear Administrator Wheeler:

On November 14, 2018, the Competitive Enterprise Institute filed a Request for Correction (RSC) regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA) and consequent agency action that effectively rejected the Pebble Mine project in Alaska. As discussed in the request, the BBWA fell well short of the standards set out in the Information Quality Act and your agency’s implementing guidelines. What made this request fairly unique is that your agency compiled the BBWA and used it to reject the project before the Army Corps of Engineers had commenced its far more rigorous Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process pursuant to law under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In other words, EPA’s actions pre-empted a process that conforms much more closely to the requirements of the Information Quality Act.

On March 20, 2019, we sent you a letter reiterating our strong interest in resolving this issue, especially in light of the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers’ assessment of the Pebble Mine project was now underway. That assessment is indeed proving itself to be everything the BBWA was not in terms of meeting both the procedural and substantive requirements of the Information Quality Act. Nonetheless, the NEPA process may be derailed by EPA’s actions prejudging the outcome and potentially rendering it moot.

The most recent communications from your agency regarding CEI’s request were a February 13, 2019 letter promising to respond to the petition by June 21, 2019, followed by another letter dated June 20, 2019 stating that an unspecified additional amount of time will be needed. This is unacceptable. We now reiterate our strong interest in the immediate resolution of this matter.

We would also note that on April 24, 2019, The Office of Management and Budget issued a Memorandum, “Improving Implementation of the Information Quality Act.” This administration-wide Memorandum included the procedural requirement that “agencies will not take more than 120 days to respond to an RFC without the concurrence of the party that requested the request for correction.” This deadline has long passed and CEI has no intention of agreeing to an extension.

In addition, it is worth noting that several of the substantive reforms in the Memorandum, especially those requiring the disclosure of underlying assumptions and the accurate characterization of probabilities and uncertainties, further underscores that the BBWA fails under the Information Quality Act and is out of step with the Trump administration’s stated priorities.

We urge you to adhere to both the deadlines and the substance of the Memorandum by immediately withdrawing the BBWA.

Respectfully Submitted,

Ben Lieberman
Senior Fellow
Competitive Enterprise Institute

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