News Feature | November 1, 2013

EPA Under Fire For Water Investigation In Alaska

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The EPA is facing scrutiny after armed officials led an allegedly forceful raid on an Alaska town to investigate potential Clean Water Act violations. Some say it was an abuse of power. 

The raid took place in the tiny town of Chicken, population 7, where agents "surged out of the wilderness around the remote community wearing body armor and jackets emblazoned with POLICE in big, bold letters," according to the Alaska Dispatch. The aim was to approach a local gold mine to check for water violations.

Locals saw it as too much.

"Did it really take eight armed men and a squad-size display of paramilitary force to check for dirty water? Some of the miners, who run small businesses, say they felt intimidated," the Dispatch said. 

The EPA visit ruffled feathers in Washington, where GOP lawmakers are criticizing the agency for reaching beyond its mandate.

The House Energy and Mineral Resources panel held a hearing on the issue, The Hill reported. And Republican senators have called on the Justice Department to investigate what happened. 

Meanwhile, Alaska's lone congressman Rep. Don Young introduced a bill to "remove the EPA’s criminal enforcement authority, instead relying upon the continued federal law enforcement capabilities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation," Young's office said in a statement. 

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell announced this month that "he has named a special counsel to investigate the incident," the Washington Examiner reported

EPA overreach was already a major Republican criticism of the Obama administration, and the raid did not help the agency's image. The EPA "said in a statement last month that the inspections did not constitute raids and are part of an ongoing investigation," the Examiner reported. 

When it comes to water issues, what does the EPA's enforcement authority look like now? The agency handles compliance monitoring and enforcement activities under the authorities of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, the agency said

For more coverage of potential EPA overreach, check out this piece on Water Online. It looks at how the EPA "overstepped its authority in attempting to regulate stormwater flow into a Virginia watershed."

Image credit: "Hatcher Pass Mining Cabin - Palmer, Alaska," © 2008 Cecil Sanders, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: