By Zack Colman - 05/20/13 03:03 PM EDT
The potential gold-and-copper mine, which would be one of the world’s largest, has attracted Capitol Hill attention from Republicans and Democrats alike.
The EPA dealt a blow to the project last month when it released a draft environmental assessment that said the mine would disrupt the region’s salmon runs, which is home to nearly half the world’s sockeye salmon.
The assessment is in the midst of a comment period that ends May 31.
While environmentalists, commercial fishermen and native tribes are pushing against Pebble Mine, industry groups are trying to get it built.
They — along with congressional Republicans — have objected to how the EPA has conducted its environmental review, saying the agency has overreached because the mine developers have not yet filed a formal blueprint.
The mine’s supporters contend the agency is using hypothetical parameters, and worry it is moving toward issuing a “preemptive” veto of a key Clean Water Act permit needed to build near waterways. They say such action would cool future investment near watersheds across the country.
"Instead of letting scientific and regulatory reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act determine whether the mine should be built (as happens with all other development projects affecting wetlands), the NRDC is pressuring the EPA to make a political decision to kill the permitting process before it starts," said John Shively, the chief executive of the Pebble Limited Partnership — the joint venture between developers Anglo American and Northern Dynasty — said in a statement.
Pebble Mine’s detractors say the EPA has enough information to evaluate the operation’s environmental impact.
Pebble Limited Partnership estimates the mine would yield 80.6 billion tons of copper, 107.4 million ounces of gold and 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum, which is used in alloys.
The EPA said a mine of that size would inhibit salmon reproduction and destroy wetland habitat.
— This story was updated at 6:10 p.m.