Posted: October 1st, 2013 by Facebook Friend
In what is another example of gross regulatory abuse, a squad of Alaska enviro-agents wearing POLICE-emblazoned body armor and dressed in paramilitary garb recently “raided” a small community for the purpose of – wait for it – checking the quality of water.
According to the Alaska Dispatch newspaper, which reported on the incident Sept. 3, “agents with the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task Force surged out of the wilderness around the remote community of Chicken wearing body armor” and jackets, leaving residents stunned, confused and most likely a little ticked off.
From the paper:
Did it really take eight armed men and a squad-size display of paramilitary force to check for dirty water? Some of the miners, who run small businesses, say they felt intimidated. Others wonder if the actions of the agents put everyone at risk. When your family business involves collecting gold far from nowhere, unusual behavior can be taken as a sign someone might be trying to stage a robbery. How is a remote placer miner to know the people in the jackets saying POLICE really are police?
Some of the miners went so far as to dare to suggest that agents do what they used to do in such circumstances – show up at the front door and politely ask to test water quality.
‘Environmental Crimes Task Force’
Part of the problem is a growing mistrust – and legitimately so – of federal reach. The paper cited a recent example, stemming from 2010, in which National Park Service rangers demanded that a 70-year-old man allow them to board his boat for a “safety inspection.” Put off by what he felt was an unreasonable request, the man swore at the rangers and headed for shore. There, rangers leveled shotguns at him, cuffed him and took him to Fairbanks 100 miles away. Later, a federal magistrate found him guilty of disobeying a lawful order from a federal agent.
What’s more, Alaska has more federally owned and managed land than any other state in the Union.
“More than 65 percent of its land is under some sort of federal control. A multitude of federal parks, preserves and wilderness areas are patrolled by agents from more than a dozen U.S. agencies,” the paper reported. “Many of the people in rural parts of the state, which are either under federal control or border federally-managed areas, have more contact with federal officers than they do with representatives from the state.”
Regarding the tiny mining community of Chicken, miners there said that, during the third week in August, groups of four to eight heavily armed agents swarmed into mining claims repeatedly, with little or no warning.
Per the Dispatch:
The officers were armed and wearing body armor. They were part of the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task Force and were there to check for violations of section 404 of the Clean Water Act, according to several miners who were contacted by the group. Section 404 governs water discharges into rivers, streams, lakes and oceans. The task force’s methods are now being questioned by the miners as well as the Alaska congressional delegation.
‘My god, what have I done now?’
“Imagine coming up to your diggings, only to see agents swarming over it like ants, wearing full body armor, with jackets that say POLICE emblazoned on them, and all packing side arms,” said C.R. “Dick” Hammond, a Chicken gold miner who was raided by one of the task forces.
“How would you have felt?” Hammond asked. “You would be wondering, ‘My God, what have I done now?'”
Naturally, the EPA isn’t answering questions, because like scores of other federal agencies that have little-to-no oversight, EPA officials don’t feel compelled to answer questions. That includes questions from Alaska’s elected congressional and senatorial delegation.
For the record, EPA justified the raids as lawful and proper under the Clean Water Act. But reports have also said the raids are currently under investigation [http://www.environmentalleader.com].