The Environmental Protection Agency is vetoing the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, to protect salmon


A controversial Alaska gold and copper mine project may now be on the table after the Biden administration officially restricted mining in the region to protect it. One of the largest salmon breeding grounds in the world.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it used a provision of the Clean Water Act to block the project, the Pebble mine, and similar operations from the Bristol Bay watershed in southwestern Alaska. The signed resolution was completed on Monday It is a proposal the administration made in May. Since then, she added, the agency has determined that a mining discharge would cause unacceptable damage to fisheries in the area.

It is the latest in a series of moves from the federal government and Alaska Native groups This could kill off a one-time $300-$500 billion ore-extraction project. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — first under the Trump administration and then the Biden administrations — have rejected the development, creating several barriers to its revival that experts say will be difficult to overcome.

Earlier, Obama officials Measures have also been taken to prevent the mineby telling the company that it cannot apply for permits.

“It’s hard for me to imagine a court [overturning] said Bob Perciasipe, acting EPA Administrator during the Obama administration, who also led the Air and Water departments during the Clinton administration. “The amount of money the company will have to keep putting in to keep the business going looks tough.”

Executives in the Pebble partnership — the sole asset of Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals, Ltd. — said they would continue.

“Unfortunately, Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency continues to ignore fair and legal process in favor of politics,” John Chifley, chief executive of the partnership, said in a statement. “This safeguard against Pebble is not legally, technically or environmentally supported. As such, the next step is likely to be legal action to fight this injustice.”

Others declared the project history.

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“This is the final nail in the coffin for the Pebble mine,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash). She added that the mine “would have wiped out the salmon in Bristol Bay” and the thousands of families who depend on this fishing.

in the middle, The vast expanse of Bristol Bay sustains 37.5 million sockeye salmon annually, supporting a $2 billion commercial fishing industry as well as a way of life for Alaskan Natives. EPA Administrator Michael Reagan called it an “irreplaceable natural wonder”.

New protections from the Environmental Protection Agency prohibit Pebble developers or other similar miners from dumping mine waste into three smaller watersheds that are part of the Bristol Bay Network. The agency said this was necessary to protect the region’s fisheries and culture.

Environmentalists and indigenous groups, which i He sought the move more than a decade ago, and he cheered for it this week. Alaska Native groups have been fiercely opposed to the construction and want the developers to abandon the project to protect the local fishing industry and lands they consider sacred.

“Today’s announcement is historic progress,” said Alanna Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a consortium of tribal governments.

Pebble Limited is in its third year of attraction Army Corps decision as of November 2020 To refuse mine site permits. And it has received support from Alaskan leaders, with Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) previously threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency if it made its own move to deny mining in the region more broadly.

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“The EPA’s veto sets a dangerous precedent,” Dunleavy said in a statement anticipating the decision. It lays the groundwork for stopping any developmental project, mining or non-mining, in any area of ​​Alaska that has wetlands and fish-bearing waterways. My administration will defend the rights of Alaskans, Alaskan property owners, and the future of Alaska.”

The Biden administration also came under fire a week ago from leaders in Alaska Its decision to ban the recording in Alaska Tongass National Forest. The EPA’s Reagan said the agency did not want to impede economic development in the state and that its decision in Bristol Bay limited it to a small and unique area.

The agency invoked a seldom-used power under the Clean Water Act — often referred to as the veto — to limit mining within Pebble’s proposed 308 square miles. While the agency can use this power to block specific projects or permits, it can also block development more broadly across a sensitive area, which the agency is doing in Bristol Bay. Reagan said it was only the third time in 30 years that the agency had invoked this authority.

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“As a source of food and jobs, and a way to preserve sacred indigenous customs and practices, Bristol Bay supports the livelihoods of many,” Regan said on a call with reporters. This final action, he said, demonstrates the administration’s commitment to “protecting our nation’s indispensable natural resources and safeguarding the livelihoods of those who depend so heavily on the health and well-being of these wonderful waters.”

Environmentalists said they plan to continue asking Congress for more protection for Bristol Bay and its fisheries. Without it in law, and if the developer and state continue to push for permits, a future administration could still eventually reverse EPA and Army Corps decisions.

“Now is the time for us to act towards permanent protection of the entire Bristol Bay watershed that is commensurate with the scope of the threat to this special place,” Chris Wood, chair of conservation group Trout Unlimited, said in a statement.

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