Former EPA staffer still missing

Nov 13, 2015

A former EPA staffer who is believed to have played an integral role in the agency's work to prevent a major mine from being developed in Bristol Bay still can't be found.

The Pebble Limited Partnership alleges that the EPA violated federal laws in its efforts to prevent a large-scale mine from being developed in Bristol Bay, but finding the man it believes was responsible for much of that work has been a challenge.

Phil North is thought to have played an instrumental role in the agency’s work for several years before he retired. He's under subpoena from a federal judge to appear for a deposition, which was originally scheduled for Nov. 12, but Pebble spokesman Mike Heatwole said that has been postponed.

"It's challenging and time consuming to track someone down overseas," Heatwole said Nov. 12.

Heatwole said he thinks Pebble is still looking for North, who is believed to have moved to Australia after he retired from the EPA.

"We'll continue to ....try to find an opportunity to catch up with him as there's a lot of interest in what he has to say regarding the situation with the EPA's actions and the case with Pebble," Heatwole said.

While many of North’s emails were reportedly lost when his government laptop hard drive crashed, others have surfaced through Pebble’s federal information act requests and congressional investigations. Those emails point toward his central role in developing protections in Bristol Bay.

In an email, EPA spokeswoman Marianne Holsman said North is a retired EPA employee and private citizen, and the agency has no information or comment on his whereabouts.