The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 10 Office announced another effort to ban any mining in the Pebble Mine area of Western Alaska.
The agency proposes that under the 1972 Clean Water Act Section 404(c), it will stop associated activity, such as the storage of dredged material from the Pebble Deposit, an area rich in gold and copper. The prohibition on storing mined rock and gravel effectively kills the ability to mine.
The last time the agency did this, under the Obama Administration, the matter ended up in litigation for years.
“This is clearly a giant step backwards for the Biden Administration’s climate change goals,” said John Shively, CEO of Pebble Partnership. “I find it ironic that the President is using the Defense Production Act to get more renewable energy minerals such as copper into production while others in the Administration seek political ways to stop domestic mining projects such as ours.”
Shively said the company is actively working through the established permitting process with its appeal of the Army Corps of Engineers’ permit denial, and opposes any action that is outside of that process.
“This preemptive effort is clearly a political maneuver to attempt to block our ability to work through that established process,” Shively said. “Further, the Army Corps of Engineers published an Environmental Impact Statement for Pebble in 2020 with input from many agencies including the EPA that states that the project can be done without harm to the region’s fisheries. The EIS further notes the tremendous economic opportunity the project represents for the communities around Iliamna Lake where year-round jobs are scarce, and the cost of living is very high. We still need an opportunity to review the specific details that will be in the preemptive veto action. It is also worth noting that there are several additional internal steps that the EPA must follow before anything is final including a public comment period and a decision by the Assistant Administrator.”
The company said that the Pebble Project remains an important domestic source for the minerals necessary for the Biden Administration to reach its green energy goals and “if it blocks Pebble it will have to seek minerals to meet its goals from foreign sources which simply do not have the same environmental standards as we do.”
But the EPA says Bristol Bay supports one of the world’s most important salmon fisheries, and this mine puts that all at risk.
The new Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10 Casey Sixkiller said, “Two decades of scientific study show us that mining the Pebble Deposit would cause permanent damage to an ecosystem that supports a renewable economic powerhouse and has sustained fishing cultures since time immemorial. Clearly, Bristol Bay and the thousands of people who rely on it deserve the highest level of protection.”
Sixkiller is a radical social justice warrior appointed by President Biden.
The Proposed Determination issued by EPA’s Region 10 evaluates an extensive record of scientific and technical information that spans nearly two decades. The Proposed Determination finds that the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble Deposit could result in unacceptable adverse effects on salmon fishery areas in certain waters within the Bristol Bay watershed, the EPA said.
Leila Kimbrell, executive director for the Resource Development Council of Alaska, released the following statement in response:
“Today’s announcement by the EPA to revisit the 404(c) preemptive veto process for the Pebble Project is concerning in light of the 2020 Environmental Impact Statement determination that the project could be done without harm to the fisheries. In 2013, RDC opposed EPA’s initial preemptive veto of the Project under the 404(c) process and cautioned against its use. RDC has long advocated for a sound, science-backed regulatory permitting process for any development project in Alaska. This is in line with RDC’s decades old mission to support a strong Alaska economy and private sector diversity through the responsible development of Alaska’s natural resources, which includes our fishing as well as our mining, oil & gas, timber, and tourism industries. Going forward, RDC will monitor the EPA’s newly announced process to revisit the 404(c) process for this project, including any additional information that may come to light as the full scope of this process plays out over the coming months.”
Public comments and public hearings are set through July 5.