Pebble mine sues EPA

The company behind the proposed Pebble Project gold and copper mine in Alaska has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the agency’s decision to start to block the mine before it files its application.

The Pebble Limited Partnership said in a Thursday statement that, while the EPA is allowed to veto permits to dump fill or dredge in waterways, it is not allowed to do so before it receives an application.

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“If EPA ultimately vetoes Pebble before a development plan is proposed or evaluated through the comprehensive federal and state permitting processes, the precedent established will have significant long-term effects on business investment in this state and throughout the country,” Pebble Chief Executive Officer Tom Collier said in the statement. “Litigation is necessary in order to get the agency’s attention and bring some rational perspective back to the U.S. permitting process.”

The EPA announced in February that it would begin the process of blocking the permit for Pebble, which could be the largest mine of its kind in the world. The Army Corps of Engineers has the authority to issue permits for fill or dredge under the Clean Water Act, but the EPA can veto the permits.

Pebble’s lawsuit, filed in the federal District Court for Alaska Wednesday, asked the court to prevent the EPA from pre-emptively vetoing the project.

Pebble also argued that the law that admitted Alaska as a state designated much of its land for mineral development, and the EPA is improperly preventing that activity.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia defended the agency’s decision to use the Clean Water Act’s section 404(c) for Pebble.

“EPA has said from the start that any action taken in Bristol Bay would be based on the science and the law,” she said in a statement, adding that EPA “continues to review the science and comments submitted by the Pebble partnership and the state of Alaska before deciding whether to continue to the next step of the 404(c) process.”

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