Federal delegation reacts to Pebble Mine announcement

Here’s how the ADN sums up EPA’s announcement regarding Pebble Mine:  “A federal agency announced Friday it is taking steps to protect the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery, the largest in the world, under the Clean Water Act. The actions could lead to a virtually unprecedented administrative veto of the proposed Pebble mine even before developers formally submit plans.”

It’s rare for the EPA to take such an action. It’s only done so 13 times since 1972 even though some 80,000 wetlands fill permits are issued each year.

As of 4 p.m Eastern time, Northern Dynasty’s stock fell to $1.00, from an opening of $1.47. Northern Dynasty’s sole asset is Pebble.

As expected, Rep. Don Young called it an “expansive, jurisdictional power grab.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski called it a “terrible precedent,” and Sen. Mark Begich is “skeptical.” The full reactions are below:

Sen. Mark Begich:

While I am a strong supporter of responsible resource development – including mining – I have said the Pebble Mine is the wrong mine in the wrong place. However, I am skeptical of federal overreach from an administration that has already demonstrated it does not understand Alaska’s unique needs. The residents of Bristol Bay and Alaska Peninsula need certainty to plan their future and I will be making sure the administration does not take any actions that could have unintended consequences down the road for this region or other development projects in Alaska.

Rep. Don Young:

I have always been clear about the severity of the EPA’s unwarranted involvement in the proposed Pebble Mine project, especially this early in the process. This expansive, jurisdictional power grab proposed by the EPA severely jeopardizes not only Alaska’s sovereignty, but the rights of states and all private property owners nationwide.

Today’s announcement for review under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act shows an agency corrupted by politics, one with no regard for the state or federal permitting processes found in statute. Instead, the EPA seeks to broaden its reach until their tentacles encumber every aspect of American life.

My concern for this process is much bigger than the Pebble Mine, in my eyes this isn’t even about the Pebble Mine. For the EPA to preemptively oppose a project located entirely on state land, a project already subject to a rigorous state permitting process, is a serious threat to any future projects on State of Alaska, Alaska Native, or even individually owned private land.

Annually, the Army Corps of Engineers issues tens of thousands of 404 permits. These projects range from pipelines, electrical transmission lines, roads, railways, agriculture, renewable energy projects like wind and solar, to commercial construction projects, parking lots, and even home development. I will be very clear, this overstep by the EPA today could mean the loss of our state to the federal government.

From Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

I understand that many in Bristol Bay strongly oppose this potential mine. I have spoken with dozens of local residents, including a large group who traveled all the way to Washington, DC, this week to make their case. It is out of respect for their concerns, livelihoods, and culture that I have reserved judgment on the mine itself – and made a commitment that we will not trade one resource for another. I do understand the importance and value of the fisheries resources that are an integral part of the Bristol Bay region. But even with that in mind, for the sake of sound law and policy, I have no choice but to remain strenuously and unequivocally opposed to a preemptive veto by EPA.

For the past three years, I have urged the agency not to prejudge this potential project before its developers sought permits or presented an official description of it. I have also called on the project’s owners to present their plan so that Alaskans have greater certainty about its expected benefits and impacts. Both parties must respect and abide by the permitting process. Neither should be allowed to subvert or circumvent it.

Today, however, EPA continued to move toward a premature veto based on what it assumes may happen with this project. We already have undeniably grave problems with federal agencies blocking resource production on federal lands in Alaska. Now to see a federal agency overstep its authority and move prematurely to block even the consideration of a permit for potential activity on state lands is something I simply cannot accept.

When and if a permit application is submitted – for Pebble or any other project – an independent scientific review is exactly what happens under the environmental review process that NEPA and the Clean Water Act provide. For any project, Alaskans and all Americans deserve a fair and unbiased environmental review of the project once a project description has been submitted.

If EPA’s action today in effect prejudges this project, the process EPA has outlined could establish a terrible precedent that only further detracts from investors’ willingness to bring capital and jobs to Alaska. It will also open the door to preemptive vetoes on this and other projects, putting development on all of our state’s lands – and both public and private lands across the nation – at risk. EPA asserts that this situation is ‘unique.’ If this action is allowed to stand, where will the next ‘unique’ circumstance arise? EPA’s actions here could have potentially widespread consequences for any development project, including airports and other infrastructure, anywhere in the nation.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


10 thoughts on “Federal delegation reacts to Pebble Mine announcement

  1. chechako

    Developing Pebble in the Bristol Bay drainage would be like putting a strip joint in Vatican Square. Only worst.

  2. Margy Johnson

    I am curious. For those who say: “I am pro mining, but Pebble is the wrong mine.” Would you be so kind to tell me where are the “right” mines. I am trying to come up with a list, of “the right mines, in the right place, at the right time. Thank you!

  3. Lynn Willis

    Protecting an entire ecosystem as a source of such a valuable renewable resource such as salmon makes sense. That doesn’t mean I support protecting every ecosystem to a standard that would protect this particular ecosystem. I would allow the objective analysis of this project to continue; however, the justification for the Pebble project must be to a standard of no significant damage or degradation beyond doubt.

    Alaskans need to come to grips with the reality that non-renewable resources are just that. You cannot extract revenue forever from a non-renewable. Alaska has become wealthy from non-renewable resources primarily oil and we are addicted to that revenue stream. Now we speak of “blowing down” the big deposits on the North Slope for gas to wring what ever we can from the golden goose of non-renewables. We have to understand that our future is not going to be sustained from holes in the ground.

  4. Winchester

    There seems to be a sense of relief that the feds are intending to stop pebble. On Facebook, and other news sites it appears that most Alaskans are pleased with the EPA announcement. I consider myself an advocate of mining and an opponent to pebble. I think peeble going away will be best for the rest of the mining industry in Alaska.

  5. BBPH

    My hat is off to Mr. Bob Gillam for standing with us against the foreign mining companies that wanted to develop Pebble mine. Withouut his power the mining companies would have run over us and ruined our way of life in Bristol bay. He stood up for me and my people when no one else cared. Mr. Gillam will always have my respect. I am glad the fishery will not be destroyed. Thank you President Obama, Sen Begich and the EnviRomental Prtection Administration.

  6. ST

    I am a pro-development advocate and am pleased that the Pebble mine project is being shut down. Mining is important to our state; however, Pebble is simply at the wrong place and too big for its local. We need to be courageous enough to stand up against bad projects. Not doing so makes us look like knuckle dragging chumps to the rest of the country. It doesn’t take a PhD to understand the potential risks to the salmon fishery. I applaud all those who fought the mine and express our appreciation to the EPA. I doubt the EPA would have ever engaged if it were not being so promoted by the state.

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