Mining lawsuit: Two Alaska Native organizations sue EPA over Pebble denial

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Iliamna Natives Limited and the Alaska Peninsula Corporation filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, alleging the EPA overstepped its authority with its final decision to axe the Pebble Mine project.

Both the State of Alaska and the parent company of Pebble have similar lawsuits filed over the January 2023 final decision, with its preemptive determination under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to prohibit and restrict areas areas in the watershed of Bristol Bay as disposal sites for discharges of dredged or fill material associated with developing the Pebble Deposit or any other similar project on State-owned lands in the area. The logic of the EPA would mean that no mining could take place in the 40,000-square-mile area that is part of the Bristol Bay watershed

“The EPA’s pre-emptive veto was only thought of as legal if you’re bought-and-paid-for by the radical environmentalists and commercial fishing activists who have opposed Pebble for nearly 20 years,” said Rick Whitbeck, Alaska state director for Power the Future.  “With lawsuits now filed by the State, the Pebble Limited Partnership and the Alaska Natives who live closest to the proposed mine site, we can hope the courts find in favor of rational thought, sound science and Alaska’s future, and against the fear-over-facts narrative of the anti-Pebble, pro-China and Russia crowd.”

The lawsuit is filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative public interest law practice that has fought for private property rights since it began in 1973.

“The EPA doesn’t get to veto any development project it doesn’t like,” said Damien Schiff, attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation who is representing the two organizations that are the plaintiffs. “When Congress wants to give an agency power, it must also give it specific instructions on how and when that power can be used. EPA claims unlimited discretion: that is unconstitutional.”

Both Iliamna and Alaska Peninsula had contracted with Pebble’s parent company Northern Dynasty to provide services to the mining company.

“Those contracts created real opportunities for full employment to villages that had previously been suffering diasporas due to chronic lack of economic opportunities and enabled the village corporations to grow — providing a desperately needed financial lifeline to their communities. The promise of the mine made Iliamna the largest employer in the area and allowed Alaska Peninsula to pay benefits to its shareholders for the first time in years,” Pacific Legal Foundation wrote.

“But then the EPA vetoed the mine project because it claimed that it would have an unacceptable adverse effect on salmon fisheries — a conclusion contradicted by the Army Corps of Engineers’ findings. The EPA claims that Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act gives it the power to decide what counts as ‘adverse’ or ‘unacceptable’ effects without clearly defining these terms,” essentially giving it a blank check to stop projects that environmentalists don’t like, for whatever reason, the foundation said.

“The Clean Water Act provides a comprehensive permitting regime for the United States Army Corps of Engineers to authorize projects involving the discharge of dredged and fill material into navigable waters. But after setting out standards to govern such permitting, Congress authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to take an end-run around the permitting review process,” the lawsuit stated.

“In so doing, Congress unconstitutionally delegated to EPA the authority to override the CWA’s permitting process virtually whenever the EPA Administrator deems fit,” the lawsuit said. “EPA has now asserted its ‘veto power’ to kill a mining project in Bristol Bay at the Pebble deposit, which is the largest gold- and copper-ore deposit in the world. If EPA had not exercised its unbounded discretion to veto the project, mine development would have continued.”

John Shively, CEO of the Pebble Partnership, said in a statement, “We have local support for the project, and the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Pebble, as published by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, describes in detail the many benefits from Pebble including employment, reduction in the cost of living, and significant local tax revenues. It further documents how local fishing permits continue to migrate to non-Alaskans and a high percentage of commercial fishing jobs are held by non-residents.

Those who oppose Pebble have not provided any alternative that would improve the economy of this area, he said:
These two Native Village Corporations understand that the EPA and our opposition care little about their future.”

The case is Iliamna Natives Limited, e al. v. EPA, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska.

39 COMMENTS

    • How many people? 1… 2…

      Do you not realize that the most productive fishery on the planet is there, and that’s more valuable than making some corporate flunky rich? What are you thinking?

      • Instead of repeating the same old tired “gonna kill the salmon”, why don’t you tell us how? 10.5 earthquake in the settlement pond dam? We can design for that, and we’ve never come close to that anyway. Aliens landing and using their blasters to destroy the dam is more likely.

        You’re like the environmentalists that killed Susitna Hydro in the 70s/80s. Guess what we had to do? Burn tons of gas at beluga, because…. it MIGHT harm the salmon. At a dam beyond where any fish pass with any regularity. So whose fault is all the CO2 that was released due to burning CO2 over the last 40 years? Yup, the lefties and NIMBYs. Good job guys. Now we’re all paying $0.23/kWh vs $0.07/kWh, and we burned a ton of gas at Beluga.

        These guys play one move chess. It’s all about killing a project and then bitching about the “corporate fat cats” that are responsible for high prices.

        Guess what – it’s not them. It’s you and all your friends who don’t look beyond the end of your nose and drive the price of everything sky-high.

        I could cite examples of the desire of the left to remove the pipeline, stop development on a postage stamp piece of ANWR that was designated for oil and gas exploration, and not opening NPR-A, but I won’t. It never changes the minds of the true believers because they

        “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes”

        • You’re unfamiliar with the concept of “tomorrow”. The mining industry is historically irresponsible and short sighted, destroys practically everything it touches. Find another glory hole that isn’t located in the middle of a primary food source, and supplies the largest amount of jobs in Alaska, dingus. (that would be fishing,not mining, btw) Wow.

      • … and if you’re really concerned about falling salmon escapements (everywhere in the state and the northwest, regardless of hydro projects or mines), get your congressmen/women to go after the factory trawlers that are scooping up everything from the ocean floor to the surface.

        Just sayin’

        • Good point.

          But I must emphasize that this particular project would remove the mountain tops in the drainage basins that feed the world’s (the WORLD’S!!!) most productive fishery. No matter what, that sludge will eventually ruin or degrade the fishery. No question about it. Banking your future on an Earth-dam holding back toxic sludge indefinitely, and the “trustworthiness” of a mining industry BS artist is a really bad idea.

    • Parent company Northern Dynasty killed any chance of a pebble mine themselves with the 2023 Security’s Fraud conviction by lying about the size of the mine which would have been much bigger than the plan they submitted to the EPA.

    • Corporate greed. Get real.

      Maybe you and your ten friends might think ripping apart the most productive fishery in the world’s a great idea, but you are alone. Lets vote on it and see how you like the results.

      • “……….Lets vote on it and see how you like the results.”
        I can live with that, even if the vote tally was counted by Joseph Stalin. At least I’d get the illusion of having a say in the matter……….without greasing some palms……….

      • How is a relatively small mine on a small tributary of a single river system going to rip “apart the most productive fishery in the world” when there are many tributaries on many river systems in “the most productive fishery in the world”? Please inform us how that’s going to happen because science, logic and reason tells us that is impossible.

        • Steve; Read how foreign owned Northern Dynasty was caught on tape bragging how they would submit a small mine plan, get the array of permits then build the worlds largest mine powered by limited Cook Inlet natural gas or nuclear powered. Read the courts verdict and you will know in case you don’t want to take my word for it. 369 square miles. They have not succeeded in receiving even one permit.
          It’s over.

          • 3rd,

            We’ve been over this before and your numbers change but never reflect reality. Once again, the largest open pit mine in the entire world is 10 square miles, it is two miles wide and 5 miles long and it was started in 1895 and is still in operation. To claim that Pebble would be almost 37 times larger than the world’s largest mine defies belief. Further Northern Dynasty does not even hold the minerals rights to 369 square miles, they only hold about half of that at 186 square miles. To think that they would create an open pit mine that would be almost 19 times the size as the worlds largest open pit mine on the land they hold mineral rights to once again defies belief. There is nowhere on this planet, except maybe the core itself, where there is enough payload in great enough quantities to mine and entire area that would measure 10 miles by 18.6 miles, let alone one that would measure 10 miles by 37 miles. Where do you come up with your numbers and why do you continue to repeat them when you have been shown time and again that they are complete fabrications?

            • Steve; Go to the dept. of natural resources and find out that not only pebble owns mining claims but many other companies have claims in the same area which would be mined with Northern Dynasty equipment but you got to 186 square miles, so your almost there and I see some movement on your part to reality.
              Obama, Trump, Biden, Pedro Bay Native corporation said no, everyone says no pebble mine.
              And Steve, Alaska already has 9,889 mines of all sorts, so know one is saying no to mining, just not foreign owned pebble.

              • Because they have mineral rights to 186 square miles does not mean they will mine 186 square miles. You should read about the mine plan, since you still obviously haven’t. As proposed, the entire site would be about 5 square miles with the open pit being a small fraction of that. So let’s say they double that and the entire mine site is 10 square miles with the open pit still being a small fraction of that…that still leaves you 359 square miles short of your claim.

        • Because the drainage system for Bristol Bay lies below. Look at map.

          No Earth-dam is going to indefinitely hold back millions of tons of toxic sludge. Get real. It a choice. Either a few people get rich and ruin the environment for a mere 5% return to the state, or thousands of Alaskans remain employed furnishing the world with food. One or the other, not both.

          No matter which way you look at it; economically, environmentally, tax revenue wise, sustainability… Pebble Mine development a stupid idea.

          • You’ve never looked at a map of Bristol Bay or been there have you? This proposed project is on a small tributary of a single river system in Bristol Bay that has six major river systems and many, many more smaller rivers.

            • Learn how gravity works first, then we can discuss the merits of your,um… “opinion”. Good grief.

  1. This will go nowhere. The plan is to dismantle the US from producing anything and Alaska is in the crosshairs. The Federal Government will quiet the Native Tribes with some type of economic funding and dump a few million dollars their way, probably led by Murkowski. Maybe they’ll get some windmills.

  2. Go to butte Montana & you will see what a copper mine looks like the birds land & never fly away gone forever all for a handful of people to have a low paying miserable job. Reclamation of the land is an oath breakers lie it is rape of the land & filthy is the site look at butte & Salt Lake City Cooper Mining is disgraceful. Oil & full dividends is GODS gift to Alaska

    • FACT: We have a ‘very’ respectable // high-integrity selection of Vendors, Contractors, Professionals, and E&P Companies producing a wide variety of oil – gas – minerals here in AK907. For example, just review the membership listings at the Resource Development Council and The Alliance. Most, if not all, provide honest and respectful opportunities, contributing to the economic wellbeing of AK907.

  3. They lied to you. Not everyone has a fishing permit, and fewer who do are native. These were good paying jobs. Heavy equipment, on down the line. Tree huggers united meeting is every Monday down Seattle way

  4. Might bear in mind all herein that the history of wars and conflicts often, if not always, are couched in commodity security and sovereignty. Today’s world is certainly a testimony that without control of a nation’s commodities on its own soil, wars will follow. Jobs are considered of secondary value to actual commodities. Such comments as “corporate greed” are necessities of life in ANY economic forum. The USA today is attempting to secure its commodities in other nations where environmental safeguards & standards typically have been subordinated far more than anything around North America. For those herein who STILL deny science as a final determinant of logical study, we can always see joining the ranks of the naive and mis-informed who lack intellectual grasping powers. Humans breed and require resources. Science enables more hominons to be on our planet through rational science and technological understanding. The Pebble project exemplifies the highest of leading edge efforts to, yes, make profits for the remaining share holders while securing America’s future copper and other critical commodity requirements. The USA today lies on the edge of a potential scalding tea cup. Mining investors are long gone now; and Americans will soon die as tgey are brought into war in order to capitalise on America’s future. A caveat to our times of digital freedom: be wary of algorymic sites generation. Screen and filter we’ll all that you read on the internet and stress your understandings of technology, science and the global precariousness that presents our shaker planet today.

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