Pebble vs. EPA may not end up in court. The mining company and the federal agency that has thwarted it are working on a settlement, which could be just days away.
Northern Dynasty, parent company of the Pebble Partnership, and the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday filed a joint motion in federal court to delay the court date for the company’s lawsuit against the agency over regulatory actions that prevented the Pebble Project from advancing to a permit application.
Pebble has accused the agency of whitewashing its misconduct and that of its senior officials. In 2016, Pebble called the EPA Inspector General’s report on that misconduct an “embarrassing failure on its part to understand what several congressional committees, an independent federal judge in Alaska, and an independent review by a former Senator and cabinet secretary have already found – that EPA acted improperly with regard to Pebble and was biased in its actions. We expect Congress will continue its investigation into the breadth of misconduct we have uncovered through the limited information that has been made publicly available.”
Many Alaskans are uncomfortable with the project, which they fear could hurt a valuable fishery in Bristol Bay. But they’re even more uncomfortable that the federal government agency may have overreached and run roughshod over the law to prevent a company from using the permit application process legally afforded to it.
The EPA used a preemptive “veto” under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, blocking the region from development in order to prevent “an unacceptable adverse effect on… water supplies… and fishery areas.” It was highly unusual.
Considered controversial by any measure in Alaska, the mine proposal has galvanized a broad coalition of opposition, including environmentalists, Alaska Native groups, and commercial fishermen.
Today’s request extends the court date one week, and indicates the two parties are close to settling the complaint that the Pebble Limited Partnership has against the EPA.
The developer of the proposed copper and gold mine have already asked for previous delays of what would be a widely covered court battle, one that would be heavily publicized by environmental organizations.
Today’s motion states that the parties have identified a framework for settlement and need another week to finalize the agreement. That puts an agreement at or before May 11.
Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier said today: “A great deal of common ground has been established between the parties, including on the importance of upholding the rule of law when it comes to administering statutorily mandated processes under the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal statutes. On that basis, we anticipate achieving a resolution to these matters next week.”
Northern Dynasty is based in Vancouver, Canada and its principal work is Pebble.