A government watchdog is reviewing the Environmental Protection Agency's study of impacts from the proposed Pebble mine after mine owners complained that the EPA collaborated with Pebble opponents.
EPA in February announced it was considering unprecedented use of its veto powers to block the Pebble mine, a huge gold and copper prospect at the headwaters of two major salmon-producing streams that flow into Bristol Bay, home of the biggest sockeye salmon runs in the world.
In January, EPA finalized a three-year scientific study of the Bristol Bay watershed, but Pebble backers say that study was rushed and flawed and pushed for an investigation of how it came about.
In a May 2 memo, EPA's Office of Inspector General said it was conducting preliminary research to evaluate whether EPA "adhered to laws, regulations, policies and procedures in developing its assessment of potential mining impacts on ecosystems in Bristol Bay, Alaska."
"This is not a criminal investigation," Patrick Gilbride, director of science, research and management integrity evaluation for the Office of Inspector General, said Tuesday in a telephone interview. A separate part of the IG office handles criminal cases. "It's an evaluation of the actions that have taken place in Bristol Bay."