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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Sean Cockerham, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday announced severe restrictions on the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, a move that is likely to block a project the EPA said could devastate the best run of wild salmon left on the planet.

“The science is clear that mining the Pebble deposit would cause irreversible damage to one of the world’s last intact salmon ecosystems,” said Dennis McLerran, Northwest regional administrator for the EPA.

The proposed mine has become one of the country’s biggest environmental controversies, with fishermen in Washington state and Alaska saying it could ruin their livelihoods.

The EPA said that, based on information the mine developer submitted to investors and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the pit of the proposed copper and gold mine could be nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon and produce waste that could fill a major football stadium 3,900 times.

The mining operation could cover an area bigger than Manhattan, the agency said.

The agency said its studies indicated the mine could wipe out nearly 100 miles of streams and 4,800 acres of wetlands even without a major accident.

The new restrictions announced by the EPA on Friday said the agency plans to forbid any discharges that would destroy five or more miles of salmon streams or 1,100 acres of connecting wetlands. The EPA proposal also would limit how much stream flow the mine activities could change.

The EPA said it will seek public comments until Sept. 19 before the new rules become final.

The restrictions would prevent the developer from building the size of mine it envisioned and are liable to mean the death of the controversial project.

The EPA’s McLerran said it is up to the developer to see whether it can come up with a mine small enough to meet the new guidelines. He said the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers would consider any proposals, but he made it clear the agency will demand heavy protection for the Bristol Bay area.

“It is as close to a land before time as still exists in North America,” McLerran said.

The mine developer said it was sorting through the implications of the EPA’s decision and did not immediately have an answer for what it would mean.

“We have not yet seen EPA’s proposal, so we will reserve further comments until we have had a chance to read and analyze it,” said Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier.

Still, Collier said he was “outraged” that the agency announced the action while a court case and other challenges to the EPA’s authority to act are ongoing.

“We will continue to fight this unprecedented action by the agency and are confident we will prevail,” Collier said.

The developer is suing the EPA, arguing the agency doesn’t have authority to take action under the Clean Water Act to restrict the mine before it applies for permits.

There is also a bill in Congress seeking to stop the EPA from pre-emptively vetoing the mine. Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs is pushing the bill, which the House Transportation Committee this week voted to move forward.

“It’s un-American to tell a private company or anybody that you can’t even apply for a permit, cannot even consider doing any operations on this land because the government has blocked it out,” Gibbs said.

The EPA said it began looking into the mine at the request of Alaska tribes and others concerned about the salmon. Mine advocates claim the agency was biased and that agency staffers themselves initiated the effort to block the project. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating those allegations.

Photo via WikiCommons

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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