NRDC Responds to Pebble's Cohen Report: "Wrong on the Money, Wrong on the Merits"

11/04/2015 02:15 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2016
UNITED STATES - JUNE 29:  Setnet fishermen trap salmon when the fish swim close to shore. Bristol Bay, Alaska.  (Photo by Mic
UNITED STATES - JUNE 29: Setnet fishermen trap salmon when the fish swim close to shore. Bristol Bay, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Melford/National Geographic/Getty Images)

I've written before that the Cohen Report - an attack on EPA, paid for by the Pebble Limited Partnership, and released last month by DC lobbyists The Cohen Group and DLA Piper LLP - lacks independence, predictably supports Pebble's perspective, and should be ignored. And no one has expressed this more eloquently than the people of Alaska themselves.

The Pebble Limited Partnership's sole reason for being is to promote the Pebble Mine - period. In its latest attempt to derail EPA's review of this potentially "catastrophic" project, Pebble paid former Defense Secretary William Cohen, The Cohen Group, and DLA Piper LLP to prepare an "independent" report that, unsurprisingly, confirms that EPA's review should be derailed.

Follow the money.

Based on a thorough review of the Cohen Report, NRDC today released a response documenting in detail that the Cohen Report is not only lacking in independence, but lacking on the merits - that Cohen's criticisms of EPA are unfounded as a matter of fact and law:

  • The Cohen Report contends that EPA's process to protect the fisheries and other resources of Bristol Bay is "unprecedented" and "unfair." On the contrary, pre-permitting decision-making is, in fact, common in a variety of environmental contexts. That EPA acted proactively, in a manner contrary to the interests of Secretary Cohen's clients, does not make the agency's actions unprecedented, novel, or illegitimate in any way.
  • The Cohen Report readily confirms Pebble's allegations that EPA had "inappropriately close relationships" with advocates of salmon protection in Bristol Bay. However, the Report ignores the extraordinarily comprehensive and inclusive public process that accompanied every stage of EPA's review, including repeated opportunities for public comment and two separate scientific peer reviews.
  • The Cohen Report argues that EPA did not fully explain the basis for its proposal to protect Bristol Bay. But that claim is belied by the extensive record, including EPA's comprehensive scientific watershed assessment and the agency's proposed determination.
  • It is the Cohen Report - not EPA's process - that lacks transparency and reflects a predetermined result.

Tomorrow, on Capitol Hill, when the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hear testimony from Secretary Cohen, NRDC's response will provide solid grounds for skepticism. The Cohen Report is flawed as a matter of both process and substance - and it should be ignored.