Pebble is a proposed mine in Western Alaska that is being litigated through politics and the court system, with layers of lawsuits and briefings being filed over multiple legal actions.
The latest legal volley is in the weeds and deals with a partial reversal of a regulatory ruling, but is an important win for the anti-Pebble people: A federal court last Thursday partially reversed a lower court ruling that had dismissed a lawsuit by environmental groups over the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to withdraw certain regulatory restrictions on the proposed Pebble Mine.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to an Alaska District Court, saying the EPA decision to lift certain constraints on the proposed mine must be reviewed.
The action is a victory for groups such as Trout Unlimited and a long list of Bristol Bay and environmental entities, which sued in October, 2019.
The argument by Trout Unlimited stated that the July, 2019 decision by the EPA to withdraw its 2014 “proposed determination,” was a regulatory decision and reviewable by the courts.
That proposed determination was essential for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit. Ultimately, in November of 2020, the Corps rejected the permit application for Pebble under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, saying that as proposed, the mine would likely result in “significant degradation of the environment and would likely result in significant adverse effects on the aquatic system or human environment.”
That ruling is under appeal by Pebble.
The dissent in the 9th Circuit’s opinion, by Judge Daniel Bress, said that the majority’s ruling is a “serious misreading of the governing regulations, rewrote the rules that the EPA set for itself, and inserted courts into what was supposed to be the preliminary stages of a discretionary agency review process.”