Gold Prospectors Get the Short End of the Stick from EPA
Last year’s Environmental Protection Agency raid on the gold prospector town of Chicken, Alaska, constituted a clear case of overkill by federal authorities seeking violations of environmental regulations, according to an official review of the controversial incident released Thursday.
The review also concluded that EPA officials have been uncooperative in some cases in releasing information on how the raid was conceived and carried out.
The federal agency caused an uproar in the tiny community and across the state when about 10 armed agents, accompanied by helicopters, raided the mining operations on Aug. 19 in order to investigate whether they were violating the Clean Water Act, or, as Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican, described it, “to see if the family-run mining businesses were making the water too muddy.”
But the new report by Alaska special counsel Brent Cole also concluded that federal and state agents did not violate the law when they conducted the surprise criminal raid, even though there was “little factual support of serious ongoing environmental crimes being committed.”
“This criminal investigation unnecessarily placed people in harm’s way,” said Mr. Cole in the 37-page “Report of the Fortymile Mining District Investigation.”
“While the method of conducting this environmental criminal investigation may meet proper legal protocol, the novelty of it in the region introduced a potential for confrontation and harm that was unnecessary,” the report said.
Mr. Parnell, who ordered the investigation after a public outcry over the August raid, asked the House Natural Resources Committee in a letter Thursday to help bring to light more information about the raid at the federal end, saying that the investigation “was hindered by a lack of cooperation from the EPA.”
“The notion of armed federal agents showing up unannounced to ‘investigate’ hard-working Alaska mining families disturbs me,” Mr. Parnell said in a statement. “… Further, I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the special counsel was met with resistance in attempting to access documents and witnesses pertinent to his review.”
Mr. Parnell said the inspection was another example of federal overreach on environmental enforcement in Alaska.