The Environmental Protection Agency can extract records from Pebble Ltd. Partnership showing payments to consultants and contractors who supported its proposed gold mine in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, a federal judge has ruled.
But, under the court order filed Thursday, EPA doesn't have the right to Pebble records on its overall finances, the loss of key investors or its internal decision-making on why it didn't yet seek its major government permissions.
EPA sought the records to test Pebble's claims in a lawsuit that the agency's actions to restrict a big mine in the salmon-producing region threatens the project's "very existence."
U.S. District Judge Russel Holland sided with Pebble in determining that the question of financial harm is not an issue in the federal lawsuit brought by Pebble in 2014. Pebble contends EPA secretly conspired with environmentalists and tribes to restrict Pebble in violation of requirements for a public process. Holland agreed the issue is EPA's process, not Pebble's finances.
"Documents related to plaintiff's financial harm are not relevant to any theory or defense in this case," Holland said in the order. "This case is about plaintiff's procedural rights, not plaintiff's economic losses.
But he didn't dismiss all elements of EPA's request to pry loose key Pebble records that the development company has resisted turning over. EPA also contends that Pebble was able to participate through third parties that it was paying.
Holland ruled Pebble must turn over records related to payments or other form of financial compensation to individuals or entities that supported mining in, or opposed regulation of, the Pebble deposit. That includes payments to Trefon Angasan, board chairman of Alaska Peninsula Corp., and Lisa Reimers, chief executive of Iliamna Development Corp., as well as their companies, Holland ruled.
Alaska Peninsula Corp. is a merged village corporation for five Bristol Bay villages. Iliamna Development Corp. is a Pebble contractor owned by the Iliamna village corporation.
EPA argues that Pebble was able to make its case through those individuals and groups, among others.
Correction: The original version of this story described Alaska Peninsula Corp. as a consortium of village corporations. Instead it is a merged village corporation for five villages.