Government investigators looking into the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rejection of the Pebble Mine project found 25 months of missing emails from the account of an employee who allegedly played a major role in derailing a crucial Alaska mine project.
The EPA inspector general (IG) found that former EPA employee Phil North was using his private email account to help Alaskan tribes opposed to the Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay draft a letter urging the government to take unprecedented measures to kill the project.
“This action was a possible misuse of position,” according to an IG report released Wednesday. “Agency employees must remain impartial in dealings with outside parties, particularly those that are considering petitioning or have petitioned the agency to take action on a matter.”
Investigators also noted, “Region 10 identified 25 months of missing emails for the retired employee that overlapped with the 52-month time period of our review” which hampered the IG’s ability to fully examine all of North’s government emails.
But that’s not all. Investigators were also unable to get a hold of North’s private email account which he used to coordinate with Pebble Mine opposition. The IG reported that “despite issuing a subpoena, we were unable to obtain additional personal emails for the retired employee.”
What’s most startling is that the IG’s subpoena failed to get North’s private emails because the former EPA ecologist fled the country shortly after congressional investigators issued a subpoena for him to be deposed in 2013. He was last spotted in Australia.