I Can See Chicken From My Backyard
The Keystone Bill's Most Hilarious Amendment: Protecting Chicken, Alaska
The new Senator from the Klondike is making sure that nobody—not even the Environmental Protection Agency—tries to bully Alaska's scrappiest town.
Sen. Dan Sullivan’s (R-Alaska) first amendment as a lawmaker sent a clear message to the federal government: Nobody messes with Chicken, Alaska. Nobody.
Sullivan's amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill—expected to be voted as soon as Monday— bars officials from Environmental Protection Agency from carrying guns, a direct result of a "raid" conducted in a tiny gold mining town in 2013. A town called Chicken.
“Over the last several years, the EPA’s criminal enforcement arm has engaged in reckless and intrusive practices—including the 2013 raid of placer miners in Chicken, Alaska,” said Sullivan in a statement. “With the ever expanding jurisdiction of the EPA under this Administration, this amendment would provide a check on the EPA—which hasn’t always had the authority to carry firearms.”
Here's how the raid in Chicken went down, according to local press reports and a special counsel's report commissioned by then-Alaska Governor Sean Parnell (R):
In August 2013, Chicken was inhabited by less than 80 miners (Sullivan’s statement says 17), eking out a hardscrabble living in the hopes of one day striking it rich.
"From the appearance of their equipment and facilities, they are hardly getting rich," the special counsel's report notes. "In spite of their conditions, they appear committed to hard work and eternal optimism that just around the corner, a vein of gold is waiting for them to discover."
That was until the nine miners—or roughly 11 percent of the population—were visited by ten armed "criminal law enforcement officials"representing the EPA, the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Environmental Conservation, according to the report.
The feds were there to investigate possible violations of the Clean Water Act and they meant business.
In addition to the guns, they brought military helicopters, wore body armor and donned jackets with the word "police" on them, according to local report.
They scared the people of Chicken.
In the aftermath, complaints were made, the Congressional delegation was briefed, the governor commissioned a special report.
But while the report faulted the federal government conducting a criminal investigation with "scant evidence," it said federal government officials didn't break any laws or cross any lines with in their interactions with the miners.
There was no justice for Chicken.
For its part, the EPA said in a statement that their special agents “like any law enforcement official, carry firearms as part of their assigned equipment.”
“These officials receive training and follow the same rules and regulations as other law enforcement officials,” the statement said. “Their work involves the potential for confrontation, and to remove this basic law enforcement tool from the hands of EPA agents could put the safety of the officers—and the public—at risk.”