ALASKA - Is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overstepping its authority?
Governor Sean Parnell says that’s part of the overall problem of “federal overreach.”
On Tuesday Parnell and an oil and gas industry group praised an Idaho couple who won a five-year battle with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
And the governor says he might sue the agency over what he sees as the EPA's premature involvement with the proposed Pebble Mine.
Mike and Chantell Sackett of Idaho recently won a Supreme Court case against EPA, saying they could challenge an order about wetlands protection on their property.
They told the Resource Development Council they're grateful the State of Alaska filed a brief in the case.
“Basically, it takes one EPA employee - that's what we had - one EPA employee that walked on that property, uninvited, with no credentials, and had no evidence that that property was a wetlands, and with that opinion, and her opinion only, she turned our life into a five-year nightmare," said Mike Sackett.
"The Sackett case is an example of all us working together to protect all our individual rights - rights that a heavy-handed government would trample, whether you're from Idaho, Alaska or any other state,” Parnell said. “That's why we joined in as a state."
Last Friday the EPA released an assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed warning that a large-scale mining project such as Pebble would destroy salmon streams and wetlands.
"They normally get involved in a project when there's actually a permit process under way with an environmental impact statement going on,” the governor said. “And so once again, I see the assessment as stepping into the state's business before they actually have authority to do so."
John Shively, president of The Pebble Partnership, said EPA’s assessment was rushed.
"We've been working on a small part of those watersheds for eight years, we spent $120 million and we're not done, and they get through in less than a year. It doesn't make any sense."
But while the governor and others say the EPA is interfering with the state of Alaska, some people say they're actually defending the rights of people in the region where the copper and gold mine would be developed.
Says former state Senate President Rick Halford: "This is not something generated by EPA reaching into Alaska. This is EPA coming to the aid of local people who are frustrated over eight years of inaction and failed enforcement by the state."
Whether overreaching or just reaching, the EPA already is far into the Pebble Mine controversy.