Judge tosses Pebble subpoenas for some individuals, groups

A federal judge in Anchorage has quashed some subpoenas issued to opponents of the Pebble mine. In a 14-page ruling issued Wednesday, Judge H. Russel Holland said Pebble was “pushing the envelope” as it seeks information from third parties about EPA’s efforts to preemptively block development of the proposed mine.

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The subpoenas relate to Pebble’s lawsuit against EPA alleging violations of FACA, or the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

On the receiving end of the subpoenas were dozens of individuals and groups Pebble says have been working closely with EPA to stop development of the mine.

One was Anchorage resident Sam Snyder, who used to work for the Alaska Conservation Foundation, where he helped coordinate opposition to Pebble.

Not all of the subpoenas have been quashed. Snyder’s was, and now he says he’s willing to describe how he felt when he was served.

“Frustrated, mad, scared. It’s not exactly the best day when you have a large multinational mining company seeking to pull you into court. I never felt I had anything to hide, but their request was onerous. They wanted documents, emails, research, conversations dating back to 2004, in which you discuss everything from fish in Bristol Bay to mining in Alaska to the Clean Water Act.”

Holland’s ruling applied to Snyder, ACF, the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, and former RSDA director Bob Waldrop.

Whether he rules similarly on other outstanding subpoenas remains to be seen.

Holland did not rule that those parties’ communications with EPA are necessarily irrelevant to the case, rather he said the exchanges –mostly emails — will turn up from EPA’s end. Snyder says he’s not worried about that.

“No I’m not concerned that emails between myself and EPA would come up. They have come up and they’re in the documents. Pebble has them. They don’t need anything from me. It’s not like I sent thousands of emails. There’s about a dozen in which I, working on behalf of interests in Bristol Bay, request meetings. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Snyder calls it a small but important win for free speech and the rights of citizens to petition their government.

Judge Holland said it will be more convenient, less burdensome, and less expensive for EPA to produce the materials Pebble says are relevant to its case. Pebble disagrees with the ruling, and says they have already found materials from third party records that were not provided by EPA.

While the FACA case proceeds in federal court, Judge Holland has ordered EPA to halt further work on the preemptive restrictions against certain mining in the Bristol Bay watershed.

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