Georgia Rep. Paul Brown led the congressional Republican warning to the Environmental Protection Agency last week, criticizing its draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment as insufficient science to block the Pebble mine prospect.
On the one hand, it's just another day on the firing line for a federal agency that has become a favorite campaign target of Republicans.
But on the other hand, Rep. Brown's warning is another example of Pebble advocates -- or EPA foes -- skipping the real issue at stake with the Pebble prospect.
Brown wrote: "If the EPA ultimately uses this watershed assessment as justification to preemptively veto mining permits in Bristol Bay -- notwithstanding EPA's legal authority to do so -- the scientific credibility of the assessment will need to be beyond reproach. This is obviously not the case ..."
You could take Brown's argument and apply it to the real issue here: Is Pebble worth the risk to a complex watershed rich in wildlife and the source of one of the greatest fisheries on the Earth? Before we say even a tentative yes, a mining operation that would safeguard that watershed for generations will need to be beyond reproach. Can the Pebble Partnership meet that standard?
The EPA isn't the issue here. Whether a world-class gold and copper mine should be in the Bristol Bay watershed is the issue. The EPA -- at the request of many Alaskans -- is trying to answer that question. Its people should take politics in stride and carry on, without fear or favor.