Pebbled: EPA ‘just didn’t have time’ to actually go to Bristol Bay



(Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series by Mark Hamilton about the history of the Pebble Project in Alaska.)

EPA had a problem. The agency wanted, desperately, to try a pre-emptive veto on Pebble Mine.  But it had no science and it had no time.

How do you proceed when you have no science and have no time?  EPA simply did not have the time to go to Bristol Bay, so its scientists decided to search on the web to discover “applicable studies.”

As it turns out the studies were not necessarily in Bristol Bay or even in the United states, or about salmon. They were simply “applicable.”

I hope that is news to you: They did no scientific field work in the mining area.

To portray the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment as science is a mockery of true science and research.  There were several very fine scientists involved, but if your contribution is “what would happen if billions of gallons of toxic  materials were poured into a watershed”?  You could do a very rigorous assessment of the short term and long-term effects of such a circumstance, without any consideration of, “How did such an outpouring occur”?  “what mining process caused those toxins to be in there”?

Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment started with the conclusion; in fact, the initial effort was a review of historic mine failures. Starting research with the conclusion is what one would expect of a freshman research paper.

It gets worse. The mining disaster explored was not even the actual mine that the developer would submit for permit. EPA was specifically told that. Pebble’s John Shively warned EPA officials that it was premature to assume a final mine plan and that reliance on conceptual models that were utilized to assess water rights , or discussed in the Waldrop Report, “…would lead to erroneous conclusions having little relevance to what may actually be submitted …at some future date.” 

EPA designed their own mine.

Two more, “you gotta be kidding me” realities:  One, in the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment some possibly guilt-ridden contributor stated, that the mine portrayed did not utilize the best engineering practices. Two, just to be certain they did not accidently design a solid mine, EPA did not use an engineer design. It allowed Phil North, an ecologist and an avowed proponent of the preemptive veto, to design the mine. North probably didn’t use the best engineering practices.  

It’s quite a shame that we will never know what other nefarious activities North was involved in; he was unable to reply to freedom of information requests because his computer broke.  

After roughly a year of computer searches, EPA submitted their first draft to peer review.  

It did not go well.  Scientists quickly recognized that it was a conclusion looking for cause.  EPA responded to criticism at least the 67 times that can be accounted for with the tried and untrue claim that the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment would not be used for a regulatory decision.

Of course, that is exactly what they did. Throughout this charade EPA was in meetings and emails and contact with many anti-development groups including the Natural Resource Defense Committee, Trout Unlimited, and others.

This conduct was not unnoticed.  The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform stated: ”EPA employees had inappropriate contact with outside groups and failed to conduct an impartial, fact-based review of the proposed Pebble Mine.”

I have often wondered, “Why did they do this?”  Not the collusion, not the bias, those have sadly become what one would expect of EPA.  Why did they make the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment public, subject it to the obvious conclusion that it was pseudo-science?  

It was because, as EPA cohorts clearly expressed. “It’s not about science; it’s politics.”

Of course! I’m such a slow learner!  The Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, while presenting no useful science, managed to provide all the sound bites for all the anti-development crowd to be repeated and tweeted and be quoted in opinion pieces for now nearly a decade.

And, of course EPA went ahead with their veto. They did so with a slightly modified document. A part of that modification is worth addressing.  Two of the seven chapters of the original were authored by a PhD named Ann Maest. The revision appeared without citation of Dr. Maest, since in the meantime she had pled guilty in Federal Court to having submitted false scientific data opposing an oil project in South America.  It’s always so hard to find good help.

 You probably won’t read the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment; I understand that.  So, let me tell you all you need to think about.  After EPA did their veto, Pebble, a mining company, and a small one, sued a federal agency (EPA) with a budget bigger than eight of our United States, more than 50 times more lawyers on their staff than Pebble had employees. Pebble received a favorable ruling.  

Now, how bad do you think this Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment document is to bring that about?   And yet, it has been quoted recently by President Biden and (are you ready for this)Tucker Carlson.  

Sadly, pebbling cares not about political lines. Two national figures recited a hastily put together piece of propaganda, that featured no field work in the area being evaluated.  

I tell you again: Don’t feel bad about being pebbled—just try not to let it happen again.

The “Pebbled” series at Must Read Alaska is authored by Mark Hamilton. After 31 years of service to this nation, Hamilton retired as a Major General with the U. S. Army in July of 1998. He served for 12 years as President of University of Alaska, and is now President Emeritus. He worked for the Pebble Partnership for three years before retiring. The series continues next week. 

Pebbled 1: Virtue signaling won out over science in project of the century

Pebbled 2: Environmental industry has fear-mongering down to an art

Pebbled 3: The secret history of ANWR and the hand that shaped it

Pebbled 4: When government dictates an advance prohibition


  1. 1985, Pale Rider, then a brand new movie with Clint Eastwood, was the decision making “scientific” rationale for the key US EPA regulator of mining in Alaska. He told us (PMA) as he walked down the hall in the Captain Cook Hotel that this movie was motivation for his opposition to Placer Mining and mining in Alaska. Aledgedly forced out due to his coordination with environmental groups or other behind the scene actions where he apparently advocated against Pebble, he left behind a legacy at EPA of anti-science opposition to individuals who would use their creative talents to produce minerals in Alaska.
    While the copper porphyry deposit that would eventually become Pebble was reported by the USGS in the 40’s or 50’s, long before EPA’s presence in Alaska, the EPA’s alignment with the environmental movement made it easy for federal agents to sit behind the scenes and dictate to State officials regulatory regimes and courses of action with little scientific basis and no means of resolution. All EPA cared about was achieving an environmental template: stop the capitalist miners by regulatory control. The battle was fought and lost long before Pebble. They just didn’t know. How could they? They weren’t even here.
    It is one reason why Alaska is the highest risk of any environment in which to develop a project, planet wide. Oil and Gas included. Just watch the Russian/Chinese LNG tankers sailing past our western shores with resources drawn out of far harsher conditions, thru thicker ice, much further away, yet discovered much more recently, than our “stranded gas.”

  2. I am shocked…shocked at this revelation. Dishonesty in progressive government? How could that be?

  3. Pseudo-science, grasping at false premises and ultimately devolving into a political, not scientific, decision. Where else have we seen that recently?

    Oh yeah… Covid. What do they have in common? Politics and emotions.

    If only, just this once, we could really follow real science to reach a truly informed decision. How remarkably freeing that would be.

  4. “Ann Maest. The revision appeared without citation of Dr. Maest, since in the meantime she had pled guilty in Federal Court to having submitted false scientific data opposing an oil project in South America.”

    I can find no court record of Dr. Maest being charged with such a crime nor pleading guilty to said charge, nor being sentenced for said crime.

    Can anyone find such a case?

    Since the point of this column is facts matter, I’d be interested in reading about Dr. Maest being charged, and found guilty in Federal court for said crime and what the resultant sentence was. Assuming that scenario is factual.

  5. Problem for the dissenters is that they can’t deny anything Hamilton is saying. All they have are personal attacks.
    From the lack of comments, I would guess that they realize just how shallow their dissent has been. I’ve followed the Pebble issue since the mid 80’s, beginning while I had a column with The Tundra Times.
    Jim Beneditto was editor at the time. I even got a mention in the Lakota Times for one of my articles.

  6. JEFF:

    CHEVRON CORPORATION, Plaintiff, v. STEVEN DONZIGER, et aI., Defendants.
    Case No. II Civ. 0691 (LAK)
    Jan 11, 2014 … Confirms the LAP Team’s Ghostwriting of the Judgment ………………….. … Donziger Tampered with the Deposition Testimony of Dr. Charles … Depositions of Douglas Beltman and Ann Maest for the Truth of the Matters. Asserted …

    Courthouse News Service
    Apr 12, 2013 … He and his colleague, managing scientist Ann Maest, end their declarations … settle claims Chevron filed against them under federal anti-racketeering law. … in a reply memorandum supporting its summary judgment motion.

    Ann Maest Archives, Independence Institute
    The Colorado Public Advocate reports that Dr. Ann Maest, a scientist with Boulder-based Stratus Consulting, dropped out of an Environmental Protection Agency …

    itsalaw dot com
    Nov 15, 2010 … The Appellate Court Has Continued to Deny Chevron Due Process …..81 … After the US$ 18.2 billion Judgment was confirmed on appeal, two judges who … Although Ecuador has submitted a report from Dr. Ronald Butters, … Plaintiffs’ expert Ann Maest said on film that “all the reports are saying it’s just at …

    Say when………………………………………

  7. Regarding the EPA staff person, Philip North (who disappeared on an around the world sailboat trip for 2 years immediately following his pre-emptive EPA permit veto), coincidentally, his computer’s hard drive failed at that exact time…and then it disappeared as well. I filed a FOIA (freedom of information act) inquiry, ended up in communication with the EPA, but they totally blocked it, and I gave up after a “mine field” of minutia and intentional distractions. In my opinion, that HD would have contained his discussions with other Pebble adversaries and possibly a path to follow the money. Funny how the tooth fairly just happens to show up and destroy HD’s at the exact perfect time???

  8. EPA attorneys and environmental activists need go no further than to Mark Hamilton’s curriculum vitai and examine where he nearly single-handedly gutted the University of Alaskan’s mining studies program, in the 1990’s while serving as UA President. He exchanged mining studies for more “cultural studies” and
    “cultural programs,” including shrines.
    It’s in the budget books. The best rebuttal on his recent opining about “Pebble” is how his hypocracy made him a rich man, from state government pay, to diminish the mining industry here in Alaska. He essentially gutted the mining engineering program. His last battle cry when retiring from UA was, “don’t mess with my university.”
    Sophistry runs deep with this man.

  9. Joseph-none of those cases demonstrate that Dr Maest was charged with a federal crime, pleased guilty to said crime, and was sentenced for said crime.

    So yes, please keep looking. assuming facts matter when it comes to the journey of a pebble.

  10. JEFF:
    Hamilton said: “The revision appeared without citation of Dr. Maest, since in the meantime she had pled guilty in Federal Court to having submitted false scientific data opposing an oil project in South America.”
    You’re reading something into his words which isn’t there.
    Corporations, and their agents plead guilty to unlawful acts all the time. A corporate, or agent’s plea in civil court is an admission of unlawful conduct.
    Ann Maest admitted guilt, in a federal civil court, to unlawful conduct.

  11. JEFF: I looked up “being deliberately obtuse” in preparation for your next comment. I just want to be sure that I will be using it correctly.

  12. Thank you, Paul, for shining the spotlight. I’m sure you have the UA budget records and facts to back up your statements, should Hamilton decide to engage. It would be interesting to see those records and let the facts speak for themselves.
    Military generals earn their stars through political channels. Hamilton
    came to the UA, not as a visionary like previous UA presidents, but rather as a budgetary manager and lobbiest to the Legislature. That’s what Hamilton was. Lobby for public money, create a huge bureacracy to serve as lieutenants at your pleasure, put holes in the ground for new shrines, and boast about yourself so your huge bureacracy will admire you and salute you.
    Politicians can switch paths quickly and acutely, depending on who their next audience is. I think you’ve got this one.
    Thanks for your information.

  13. Again: “Problem for the dissenters is that they can’t deny anything Hamilton is saying. All they have are personal attacks.”
    Weak, shallow, off topic personal attacks … coming from some who’s department budgets may have gotten gored? Sour grapes?
    I think the U of A is a white elephant, and should be turned into a homeless camp. Their touted accomplishments sound hollow, vaporware. Their few really intelligent graduates just go on to jobs in the S-48, or foreign countries. Save Alaska a couple billion per year, to spend on bridges to nowhere.

  14. Copy and past from Jan. 11, 2021:
    “White House Climate Czar Gina McCarthy: Obama’s head of the EPA and now president of National Resources Defense Council.”
    While in the EPA, her and North were the driving influence in blocking Pebble. The NRDC conned the Bristol Bay Native Corp to fight against Pebble.
    The same political pressure against Pebble was done by Murkowski and Sullivan, and forced the ACoE to deny Pebble’s permit.
    To all the people applauding this result … You think you won a victory for the environment, but the environment can be protected only when America can afford the luxury.
    Biden is anti-oil, anti-mining, and anti-industry. Biden’s whole cabinet is socialist, communist, anti-democracy America haters.
    When America’s economy tanks, there will be a desperate rush to revive oil, mining, and industry, at a time when America may not be able to afford the luxury of environmental protections.
    The Environazis may have set America up for a new round of “Love Canals” and “Three Mile Islands”.”

  15. Good points, Josephdj. Al Gross really did think he was going to sack Sen. Sullivan on the Pebble issue alone. Remember Gross’s campaign ads playing the Sullivan tapes over and over? It don’t work. Gross got creamed in the Senate race. It shows you where Alaskans really stand on Pebble. Of course, it also shows how unelectable Al Gross is.

  16. You have not only been Pebbled, you have been Bushed. Two wretched worthless Bush RINO senators who have opposed the project, and opposed America as well. So in this regard, the citizens of Alaska have been betrayed and bamboozled, like a lot of the other RINO senators and governors in America. You all are another causality of the War of the Government Workers against the Ameircan citizens. The cost of Federal employees is not just their “disgusting leftness,’ it is their true financial cost. (not just their salaries, the whole sweet package, including their rich pensions). I saw in 2014 the estimate per one federal worker was 119 grand per year, including lavish health benefits. They are across america now, making war on the american people, an aristocracy of labor, having cut themelves off from the people who pay their salaries, and have become the Overlords. And none of this will c hange whatsoever, except for one thing: The MACHINES. There are an estimated 30,000 dominion machines in cook county (chicago) alone. I estimate almost 350,000 across amercia, not including the knockoffs, which are just as bad. Software has made stealing elections possible. The first Dominions got here in2006, and now they are ten times more improved. A sophisticated Guv takeover of the people. So long as the government workers (including RINO governors like Ducey of AZ, Kemp of GA, and Hogan of MD) have their machines in place, the country is finished. Journalists like Breitbart and TGP can write all they want about the criminality of a stolen election and a federal Gov workforce that is socialist, but nothing will change while the machines are in place. Trump could run and get 100 million votes, but the democrat candidate would get 101 million. And remember, the democrats have the police. Maybe not in Alaska, but the federal police and DOJ are completely corrupt and complicit. Dirty as sin for two decades now, at least. Americans must get the House; Biden will never imho, help Pebble. PS: tucker is a disaster with science, a history major from Trinity, who loves to talk about aliens on his show, how silly, a little boy should stick to what he knows. Science is not his thing.

Comments are closed.