Did the EPA need to send in a federal-state SWAT-type team to enforce the Clean Water Act in Alaska’s Fortymile Mining District? Alaska officials say, “No!”
RENO (MINEWEB) – Outraged by what his office called a “needless show of force,” Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell Thursday ordered an investigation into the practices of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental Crimes Unit and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division after armed government agents, wearing body armor, swooped in on 30 placer gold mining operations along the Fortymile River near Chicken, Alaska.
“With a mere last minute notification to our DEC commissioner, Alaska’s attorney general, and the Department of Public Safety, the EPA, BLM and a DEC investigator took it upon themselves to swoop in on unsuspecting miners in remote Alaska,” said Parnell. “This level of intrusion and intimidation of Alaskans is absolutely unacceptable. I will not tolerate any state agency’s participation in this sort of reckless conduct.”
“There are many unanswered questions and I will seek a special counsel to get to the bottom of this matter and work to ensure it never happens again,” he stressed. Parnell also called on EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to review and reevaluate how her agency handles Clean Water Act violations.
Between August 18-24, groups of four to eight armed agents—wearing body armor and jackets with the word “police” on them–visited 30 placer gold mining operations; mainly small, family-run operations. The agents were looking for violations of the federal Clean Water Act, as well as state environmental violations, according to reports by the Alaska Dispatch.
The seasonal placer miners operating near the tiny historic mining town (pop. 17) of Chicken suggested that the officials could have just shown up at the door—as they used to do—and said they needed to check the water.
The EPA told the Fairbanks News Miner that the agencies “took on this investigation based on sites with a regulatory history of non-compliance with the state and federal clean water laws and ongoing significant discharges — possibly felony violations of state and federal clean water laws.”
The agency statement said violations were found during the inspection of 30 mining sites, but that investigations are ongoing. No arrests were made at the sites, which include state and federal lands.
“All interviews and discussions were consensual and cordial,” the EPA statement asserted. “No homes were entered. There weren’t any confrontations or incidents of using force throughout this particular law enforcement operation.”
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