In a press release dated September 5, 2013, No. 13-145, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell demonstrated his outrage over the EPA’s raid on mining operations near Chicken, Alaska in late August. Governor Parnell has called for a special counsel to investigate the EPA’s raid. Governor Parnell’s statement was the strongest of any governor seen by this 59 year resident.
The EPA and one Alaska DEC agent conducted an armed raid in full body armor with POLICE signs in white bold letters velcroed to their black body armor to collect . . . water samples. The raid was to check compliance with water turbidity standards (the amount of particulate--silt in the water column) at the discharge point back into the stream. No citations were issued or arrests made for non-compliance.
In a phone conference with State officials and members of the Alaska congressional delegation, the EPA gave the excuse that the Alaska State Troopers had provided information that Chicken, Alaska was a “hotbed” of drugs and human trafficking.
Senator Lisa Murkowski believes that the EPA “concocted the story as an excuse for the outrageous overreaching.
The full text of the governor’s press release:
“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 13-145
Governor Outraged at Needless Show of Force by EPA, BLM, DEC Agents
Calls for Special Counsel
September 5, 2013, Juneau, Alaska – After a week of internal review into reports of intimidation and needless show of force by federal and state officials, Governor Sean Parnell has ordered an investigation into the practices of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Environmental Crimes Unit and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Investigations Division. The review comes after the governor learned that a state DEC investigator joined seven enforcement officers from the EPA and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to investigate placer miners in the Fortymile River area near Chicken. The agents, armed and wearing body armor, claimed they were looking for violations of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. No arrests were made and no citations were issued.
“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,” Governor Parnell said. “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.”
Governor Parnell also called on EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to review and reevaluate how her agency handles Clean Water Act investigations. He also encouraged her to join the State of Alaska in ensuring the use of needless show of force tactics never happens again in Alaska.”
The governor’s reaction is refreshing and appropriate.
An Alaska Deptarment of Environmental Conservation (DEC) agent accompanied the EPA on the raids, and was also similarly armed and armored.
The only police agency that should have had any armed presence in a law enforcement action in the State of Alaska is the Alaska State Troopers (AST) or a State Military Police constabulary acting under AS 26.05.070. The AST and a State Military Police Constabulary acting under AS 26.05.070 have law enforcement jurisdiction statewide.
AS 01.10.060(a)(7)(A-F) defines a peace officer under Alaska Statutes:
“(a) In the laws of the state, unless the context otherwise requires,
(7) "peace officer" means
(A) an officer of the state troopers;
(B) a member of the police force of a municipality;
(C) a village public safety officer;
(D) a regional public safety officer;
(E) a United States marshal or deputy marshal; and
(F) an officer whose duty it is to enforce and preserve the public peace;”
An EPA water quality technician armed or not, is hardly charged to ‘enforce and preserve the public peace’. Same for the DEC. Only actual law enforcement agencies should be wearing “POLICE” signs on their uniforms or equipment.
Alaska’s DEC’s commissioner may be in hot water.
Under Alaska’s Statehood Compact, the State of Alaska is given full law enforcement jurisdication over all lands in Alaska, including federal lands. The raid by the EPA was an outrageous assault not only endangering needlessly the miners affected but violated the State’s 10th Amendment rights and is a breach of Alaska’s Statehood Compact. A regulatory agency’s enforcement action does not comply with AS 01.10.060(a)(7)(A-F). Were law enforcement action required, an Alaska State Trooper should have accompanied the EPA and DEC water technicians to effect any arrest or to keep the peace.
Alaska’s Congressman Don Young issued the following statement regarding the EPA raid:
“I am deeply troubled by the aggressive show of force and tactics employed by the EPA and other agencies, whose agents descended on the Fortymile Mining District late last month to enforce provisions of the Clean Water Act.
Rather than focusing on compliance with common practices and assisting in education, this sweeping operation was heavy handed, cast a wide net, and brought intimidation to unsuspecting and many undeserving miners. Particularly concerning is the level of misinformation and lack of coordination with State law enforcement agencies, a detail that was illuminated earlier by Governor Parnell. As a result, I stand with him in support of his call for an investigation and I too demand that Administrator McCarthy review her agency’s actions.
Despite the creation of meddlesome federal agencies like the EPA, safe and responsible mining in this area of Alaska has occurred for well over 120 years, and it is my intention to see that activity continues as the time honored Alaskan tradition that it is. However, I’m afraid this latest incident is simply another example of a coordinated harassment strategy from federal agencies who don’t view placer activity as compatible in and around an area designated as a Wild and Scenic River.
Finally, I join the request of the Fortymile miners, and call on the EPA and other agencies involved in these recent actions to meet in Chicken, Alaska next week to discuss the operation.”
This raid is a dangerous precedent and it is encouraging to have Governor Parnell act aggressively to stop this egregious affront by the federal government.
The federal government is arming its regulatory agencies and training them to conduct armed raids, as if taking a water sample to check compliance with the Clean Water Act rises to the level of a raid on an Al Qaeda cell in a combat zone. Federal “law enforcement”, including strictly heretofore unarmed regulatory agencies, has increased from 60,000 to 180,000 to date under the Obama Administration. President Obama stated during the 2008 campaign that he wanted a civilian armed force equal to the U.S. military for domestic policing.