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Critics: Green Group Abuses EPA Public Petition Process

Vitter: Anti-Pebble Mine tactics are 'shenanigans' 'intended to skew the public's input'

Alaska, Earthworks, Pebble Mine
Alaskan fisherman / AP
• July 3, 2013 2:05 pm

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An environmentalist group copied language directly from a previous petition into a new petition asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to more heavily regulate a proposed mine.

A majority of the signatories to the petition submitted by the group Earthworks are not from the United States.

Those revelations have fueled criticism of environmental opposition to the Pebble Mine, a proposed gold and copper mine in southwest Alaska.

Earthworks submitted 7,575 comments on an EPA draft environmental impact assessment on the mine. The comment period closed last weekend.

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a majority of the comments submitted through the Earthworks petition list a country other than the United States as commenters’ nations of origin.

The language of the petition appears to be identical to one submitted by Earthworks earlier this year, asking Nancy Sutley, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality, to "stop the Pebble Mine."

Myron Ebell, director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, said in a Tuesday statement that Earthworks was "abusing the EPA’s public comment process and distorting the results with these dishonest, underhanded tactics."

Sen. David Vitter (R., La.), ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee and a critic of other anti-Pebble Mine tactics, said Earthworks’ "shenanigans" are "intended to skew the public's input" on the regulatory process.

Vitter criticized EPA for what he claims are needless delays in its consideration of the mine, and said Earthworks’ tactics "actually worsen the procedural issues."

Earthworks spokeswoman Bonnie Gestring defended the inclusion of non-American signatories in the group’s comment submissions.

"Bristol Bay is a world class fishery, and its salmon are exported around the world, so it's not surprising that people outside of the U.S. are expressing support," Gestring told the Washington Free Beacon in an email.

Gestring did not comment on the duplicative use of Earthworks petition language.

Other Pebble Mine opponents came under fire on Monday for offering a free fishing trip to people who referred friends to their petition opposing the mine. Vitter said the tactic was an attempt to "bribe" Americans into opposing the project.

Vitter and other Pebble Mine supporters claim the project will create thousands of jobs.

Earthworks, Ebell said, is "willfully disenfranchising countless native Alaskans in the Bristol Bay region and people throughout the nation who would benefit from Pebble’s huge economic contributions."