Alaskan Congressman Don Young today challenged Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran's claim that the federal agency had received "well over 90 percent" support for the agency's Draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.
"Once again the EPA is not listening to Alaskans -- and even worse, they're misleading the public," said Rep. Young. "The vast majority of these so-called "comments' did not come from the people who should be involved in making a decision -- Alaskans. In fact, an overwhelming majority of the comments were actually mass messages sent by radical environmental groups.
"As I have said from the outset, I am reserving judgment on the Pebble Mine until the permitting process runs its course. The proposed mine is located on State of Alaska lands and to let the EPA come into Alaska and mull preemptively vetoing this project before the permitting process even begins, would make a mockery of both the federal and State of Alaska permitting processes. Alaskans should be the ones to decide the ultimate fate of this project -- not outside interests."
According to the EPA's docket on the Draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, several environmental organizations mounted "mass e-mail comment campaigns" composed of messages that are "identical or nearly identical in content and format." The groups that organized these mass e-mail campaigns included (with approximate totals):
Natural Resources Defense Council (New York, NY) -- 85,000 e-mails
National Wildlife Federation (Reston, VA) -- 53,000 e-mails
National Parks Conservation Association (Washington, DC) -- 30,000 e-mails
Pew Environmental Group (Washington, DC) -- 14,000 e-mails
Sierra Club (San Francisco, CA) -- 2,000 e-mails
In total, mass e-mail campaigns from groups that support the EPA's actions in Bristol Bay accounted for more than 90 percent of the roughly 220,000 comments filed before the July 23 deadline, according to the latest available data. Many of these e-mails appear to have been generated by websites that ask visitors to send a pre-written message to the EPA. All that's required is entering a few details and clicking on a link, and there is no way to prevent someone from using a false name and address.