Alaska tribes to back EPA in Pebble Mine case

A coalition of Alaska Native tribes will intervene to support the Environmental Protection Agency in a lawsuit that challenges its authority to halt a major copper and gold mine near Bristol Bay.

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay originally asked the EPA to block the permit for the proposed Pebble Mine using its authority under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. They announced Thursday that they will continue to fight against the project by joining Pebble’s lawsuit against the EPA for initiating the permit veto process before an application was filed.

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Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) recently decided to join the lawsuit on Pebble’s behalf.

“The 404(c) process over … is the very course that the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, along with thousands of Alaskans, requested the EPA take in efforts to protect our people and region from the harmful effects of large-scale mining,” Robert Heyano, president of the tribal coalition, said in a Thursday statement.

“By initiating a lawsuit, [Pebble] shows continued disregard for the scientific facts that prove this type of mining in Bristol Bay will be devastating to our region, a continued disinterest in the open and transparent public process we requested, and dismissal of the overwhelming desire of the Bristol Bay communities,” Heyano said.

The tribes have said that Pebble’s mining and disposal of waste would harm the local salmon population, which natives depend on. The EPA’s research confirmed the tribes’ assertions, and earlier this year, the agency started the veto process, but did not fully deny the permit.

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