The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has denied a critical environmental permit to the Pebble Partnership, owner of the proposed Pebble Mine.
“We are obviously dismayed by today’s news given that the USACE had published an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in July that clearly stated the project could successfully co-exist with the fishery and would have provided substantial economic benefit to the communities closest to the deposit. One of the real tragedies of this decision is the loss of economic opportunities for people living in the area. The EIS clearly describes those benefits, and now a politically driven decision has taken away the hope that many had for a better life. This is also a lost opportunity for the state’s future economy – especially at a time when Alaska is seeing record job losses from the impacts associated with Covid,” wrote John Shively, CEO of the project.
“The Pebble Deposit contains minerals such as copper that are in the national interest as they will be necessary to support the nation’s transition to more renewable sources of energy and a lower carbon future. President-elect Biden has stated that increasing domestic copper production will be an important step in meeting these goals.
“Since the beginning of the federal review, our team has worked closely with the USACE staff to understand their requirements for responsibly developing the project including changing the transportation corridor and re-vamping the approach to wetlands mitigation. All of these efforts led to a comprehensive, positive EIS for the project that clearly stated it could be developed responsibly. It is very disconcerting to see political influence in this process at the eleventh hour.
“For now, we will focus on sorting out next steps for the project including an appeal of the decision by the USACE.”
The statement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the discharge of materials would not be able to meet the terms of the Clean Water Act:
“Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District issued a record of decision that denies the Pebble Limited Partnership’s permit application to develop a copper-molybdenum-gold mine in southwest Alaska under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act.
“This decision on the proposed Pebble Project culminates a review process that lasted nearly three years and involved the development of an environmental impact statement. That assessment included an in-depth analysis of project alternatives along with an examination of supplemental technical information provided by cooperating agencies and the public. In its record of decision, USACE determined that the applicant’s plan for the discharge of fill material does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines and concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest.
“This action is based on all available facts and complies with existing laws and regulations. It reflects a regulatory process that is fair, flexible and balanced. USACE is committed to maintaining and restoring the nation’s aquatic resources, while allowing reasonable development.
“We strived for transparency, collaboration, accuracy and expediency throughout the decision-making process. We truly value and appreciate the contributions of everyone who engaged in this endeavor. Now, I’m proud to say that we delivered on our promise to conduct a thorough review and make a timely permit decision.”
Congressman Don Young was the first of Alaska’s delegation to issue a statement:
“From the very beginning of the debate surrounding Pebble Mine, I have been consistent in my position that we needed to allow the process to play out and that decision making should be based on sound science. Today, it appears that the process has concluded. This is state land, and to me, this has always been a states’ rights issue. Although I thank the Army Corps of Engineers for their work and am confident that they faithfully followed the process, I remain disappointed that the federal government gets to decide before Alaskans do. Now there must be a consideration of how the federal government will compensate the State for the loss of economic potential. The proposed mine has always been subject to political intrigue and the whims of outsiders who simply do not understand our state. Throughout my career, I have always defended our right to extract oil and minerals responsibly. Going forward, I will continue fighting to ensure that proposed projects are fairly judged on their merits, so that the voices of outside extremists do not stifle Alaska’s potential for jobs and economic growth.”