EPA vetoes Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay to protect salmon


A controversial gold and copper mine project in Alaska could now be off the table after the Biden administration formally restricted mining in the area to protect one of the largest salmon spawning grounds in the world.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it has used a provision of the Clean Water Act to block the Pebble Mine project and similar operations from the Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska. The decision, signed on Monday, ends proposal issued by the administration in May. The agency has since decided that dumping mine waste will cause unacceptable damage to fisheries in the region, she said.

This is the latest in a series of actions by the federal government and Alaska Native Groups it could doom an ore mining project once valued at $300 billion to $500 billion. The EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers — first under the Trump and then the Biden administrations — have now rejected the development, creating multiple barriers to its revival that experts say will be difficult to overcome.

Previously Obama staffers also took action to block the minetelling the company it could not apply for permits.

“It’s hard for me to imagine a court [overturning] kind of a double whammy,” said Bob Perciaseppe, a former acting EPA administrator during the Obama administration who also ran the air and water departments during the Clinton administration. “The amount of money that the company would have to continue to be able to offer to keep the thing active seems difficult.”

Pebble Partnership executives – the sole asset of Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals, Ltd. – they said they would continue.

“Unfortunately, the Biden EPA continues to ignore a fair and just process in favor of politics,” John Shively, the partnership’s CEO, said in a statement. “This preemptive action against Pebble is not supported legally, technically, or environmentally. As such, the next step will likely be to take legal action to combat this injustice.

Others declared the project history.

EPA offers protection for world’s largest salmon fishery

“This is the final nail in the coffin for Pebble Mine,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). She added that the mine “would devastate salmon in Bristol Bay” and the thousands of families who depend on this fishery.

Average the vast expanse of Bristol Bay supports an annual catch of 37.5 million sockeye salmon, supporting a $2 billion commercial fishing industry as well as a way of life for Alaska Natives. EPA Administrator Michael Regan called it “an irreplaceable and natural wonder.”

New EPA protections prohibit Pebble developers or other similar miners from dumping mining waste into three smaller watersheds that are part of the Bristol Bay network. This is necessary to protect both the region’s fisheries and its culture, the agency said.

Environmentalists and local groups who first sought the move more than a decade ago, and welcomed it this week. Alaska Native groups have strongly opposed the construction and want developers to abandon the project to protect the local fishing industry and land they consider sacred.

“Today’s announcement is historic progress,” said Alana Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a consortium of tribal governments.

The Pebble Limited is entering its third attractive year Army Corps Decision November 2020 for denial of permits for the mine. It has received support from Alaska leaders, with Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) previously threatening to sue the EPA if it makes its own move to more broadly reject mining in the area.

In secret records, the mine managers detailed their power over the leaders

“EPA’s veto sets a dangerous precedent,” Dunleavy said in a statement anticipating the ruling. “This lays the groundwork to halt any development project, mining or otherwise, in any area of ​​Alaska with wetlands and fish-bearing streams.” My administration will stand up for the rights of Alaskans, Alaskan property owners, and Alaska’s future.

The Biden administration also came under fire a week ago from Alaska leaders for its decision to block logging in Alaska Tongass National Forest. The EPA’s Regan said the agency does not want to hinder economic development in the state and that its decision in Bristol Bay is limited to a small, uniquely special area.

The agency invoked a rarely used right under the Clean Water Act — often referred to as its veto power — to limit mining within Pebble’s proposed 308-square-mile area. While the agency can use this power to block specific projects or permits, it can also more broadly block development in a sensitive area, which is what the agency does in Bristol Bay. This is only the third time in 30 years that the agency has invoked that authority, Regan said.

A corporation of Alaska Natives to protect their land, striking a blow to the gold mine project

“As a source of food and jobs and a means of preserving sacred local customs and practices, Bristol Bay supports the livelihoods of so many people,” Regan told reporters. He said this latest action demonstrates the administration’s commitment to “protecting our nation’s irreplaceable natural resources and protecting the livelihoods of those who depend so heavily on the health and well-being of these magnificent waters.”

Environmentalists said they plan to continue asking Congress for additional protections for Bristol Bay and its fishing grounds. Without them in the law, and if the developer and the state continue to push for permits, a future administration could still end up overturning the EPA and Army Corps decisions.

“It’s time to work toward permanent protections for the entire Bristol Bay watershed that match the scope of the threat to this special place,” Chris Wood, president of the conservation group Trout Unlimited, said in a statement.

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