The Trump administration settled a lawsuit Friday, May 12, 2017, over the proposed development of a massive gold and copper mine at the headwaters of one of Alaska’s premier salmon fisheries.
“BBNC is very disappointed the EPA and the Trump Administration have made a decision to withdraw the agency’s prior actions that sought to protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble mine”, Metrokin said in a statement.
It has been a controversial project because opponents say it could endanger a rich salmon fishery in Bristol Bay.
“The people of the Bristol Bay region don’t need this kind of stress hanging over our heads once again and continuing on year after year”, Edgmon said, the Alaska Dispatch News reports. Two native communities beside the bay – the Yup’ik and Dena’ina – are among the last indigenous people in the world to rely upon salmon for food and social structure. His move to pave the way for Pebble’s mining permits fulfills aspects of the Republican president’s promises to restore mining jobs.
“Bristol Bay is too important – economically, environmentally, and culturally – to be sacrificed for the sake of a mine”, said Taryn Kiekow Heimer, senior policy analyst at NRDC.
Administration officials are reopening the question of whether to construct Pebble Mine, and may even reconsider the Interior and Agriculture Departments’ move in December to reject a mining company’s request to renew a lease on the southwest border of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. “Instead of making America great, it risks America’s greatest wild salmon runs”.
Norman Van Vactor, with the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, said the next phase of challenges to the project could include additional legal fights and “standing in front of bulldozers”.
The legal settlement was reached late Thursday, the Washington Post reported, and reverses an Obama-era determination that Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. could not apply to a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for the project because Pebble Mine would cause “significant near- and long-term risk to salmon, wildlife, and Native Alaska cultures” in the region. It has been looking for a partner since 2013, when a subsidiary of UK-based Anglo American announced it was withdrawing from the project.
Although seldom used, EPA has the power under Section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act to veto or limit any Army Corps of Engineers dredge-and-fill permits. But the EPA’s Office of Inspector General reported previous year that it found “no evidence of bias in how the EPA conducted the assessment” for the proposed mine, nor “that the EPA predetermined the outcome” of the project. It also concluded that the agency did not predetermine the study’s outcome.
The proposed mine has been hotly debated for years.
“From the outset of this unfortunate saga, we’ve asked for nothing more than fairness and due process under the law ― the right to propose a development plan for Pebble and have it assessed against the robust environmental regulations and rigorous permitting requirements enforced in Alaska and the United States”, Ron Thiessen, CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals, said in a statement. A judge ordered the agency to stop work while the lawsuit was pending. In a statement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, “w$3 e are committed to due process and the rule of law, and regulations that are ‘regular.’ The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation”.
Pebble faces waves of opposition in Alaska, including from tribes and local businesses who worry the project threatens thousands of fishing and outdoor recreation jobs in the region.
Tom Collier, CEO of the Pebble Partnership, said the project is now smaller than previously planned and would have demonstrable environmental protections, including protecting the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed.
In this July 13, 2007 file photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma. “It is our intent to demonstrate how we will meet those goals in the period ahead”.