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Report criticizes EPA for raid on Alaska miners, but says agency did not break law

A special counsel report ordered by the governor of Alaska over an armed "raid" last year on Alaska miners found that the EPA-led investigation unnecessarily exposed the mining families to harm -- but also did not find any evidence that task force members broke any laws.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell called for a special counsel to look into the August 2013 raid, saying federal enforcement officers were armed while looking for Clean Water Act violations alongside state authorities. He said members of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation joined EPA agents in going after gold miners in the area.  

The report, released Thursday, said the EPA failed to provide witnesses and documents to the special counsel in charge of the investigation. The special counsel report also shows the EPA went forward with the raid, even though the Alaska Department of Public Safety had investigated the criminal concerns a year earlier and “found [them] to be without merit.”

"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,” gold miner C.R. Hammond told the Alaska Dispatch after the incident. "How would you have felt? You would be wondering, 'My God, what have I done now?'"

The director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal investigation division has said meetings with miners were cordial and disputed any suggestion that state agency involvement came at the last minute.

At the time, a spokesman for the EPA did not deny that agents wore body armor and carried guns, but said it was not a "raid."

Calls to the EPA for additional comment Friday were not returned.