Alaska mine developer battles EPA with lobby visit

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The EPA is weighing whether to award Pebble Partnership, the venture formed by developers Anglo American and Northern Dynasty, a Clean Water Act permit to build on the watershed.

Pebble’s supporters argue that the EPA is hinting it could “preemptively veto” the permit. The developers have not yet submitted a formal blueprint for the mine, which has forced the EPA to use hypothetical mine designs in its draft environmental analysis.

Robertson said Shively will use the meetings with lawmakers and with the White House Council on Environmental Quality to discuss the potential for EPA overreach with Pebble.

“When we have an opportunity to explain to people that the EPA has said that they have the ability to veto this mine before we ever submit a permit application, and they can do it to you to any project in your state … you see the light bulb go off,” Robertson said.

Separately, a handful of Northern Dynasty executives are making the rounds this week in Washington, D.C., as well. The firm's chief sent a letter to acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe on May 30 airing "significant concerns" about the regulator's review process.

That draft review, released in April, said that an open pit mine at the Bristol Bay’s headwaters would destroy salmon runs, devastating the habitat for nearly half the world’s sockeye salmon.

The permitting fight has garnered attention from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Rep. Paul BrounPaul BrounCalifornia lawmaker's chief of staff resigns after indictment Republican candidates run against ghost of John Boehner The Trail 2016: Let’s have another debate! MORE (R-Ga.), the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee on Oversight, and Sen. David VitterDavid VitterMercury brings on former Sen. Vitter, two others Lobbying World Bottom Line MORE (R-La.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Alaska’s senators, Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiPublic lands dispute costs Utah a major trade show Oprah's network provides Senate with tape of abuse allegations by Puzder's ex-wife: report More than 100 groups back Puzder for Labor secretary MORE (R) and Mark BegichMark BegichThe future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map Trump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide MORE (D), also have expressed concern about the EPA’s process.

The mine’s opponents contend the EPA has plenty of information from Securities and Exchange Commissions filings by the Pebble Partnership to conduct a review of the mine.

They have launched a lobbying and advertising campaign of their own to raise awareness inside the Beltway.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a green group, spearheaded a six-figure ad buy in several news publications arguing the EPA already had the authority to reject the mine under the Clean Water Act.

Pebble’s detractors — largely commercial fishermen and native tribes — say Pebble would eliminate 14,000 fishing industry jobs.

"It's ironic that the Pebble Partnership is in Washington, D.C. this week trying to sell a fantasy jobs plan while thousands of commercial fishermen, sportsmen, lodge owners, and Alaska Natives are gathering in Bristol Bay to begin fishing season and earn a living from that sustainable fishery," Rick Halford, Alaska's former Republican Senate president, told The Hill in a statement.

That’s generated some concern from some western Senate Democrats.

Five of them highlighted a report that touted Bristol Bay's commercial fishing industry in a letter to President Obama on Monday. The University of Alaska Institute for Social and Economic Research report said that sector accounted for $1.5 billion in economic output for the Pacific Northwest, including $500 million in direct income.

"Bristol Bay’s economic impact is critical to the regional economy of the Pacific Northwest and on our home states of Washington, Oregon and California," wrote Democratic Sens. Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order Oprah's network provides Senate with tape of abuse allegations by Puzder's ex-wife: report How many GOP senators will stand up to megadonor DeVos? Just 2. MORE (Wash.), Maria CantwellMaria CantwellTrump signs bill undoing Obama coal mining rule Nine Dem senators say hiring freeze hurting trade enforcement Overnight Energy: Congress does away with Obama coal mining rule MORE (Wash.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerCarly Fiorina 'certainly looking at' Virginia Senate run Top Obama adviser signs with Hollywood talent agency: report 
Democrats vie for chance to take on Trump as California governor MORE (Calif.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinDem: Trump's China trademark looks like a quid pro quo Senate advances Trump's Commerce pick Flynn told FBI he didn't talk sanctions with Russian envoy: report MORE (Calif.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate advances Trump's Commerce pick Senate confirms Pruitt to lead EPA Democrats want Pruitt vote delayed over emails MORE (Ore.).

But Shively will come to Capitol Hill armed with a new study that says Pebble would create thousands of jobs in Alaska and the Lower 48 states.

The study, conducted by economic consultancy IHS, predicted Pebble would support roughly 16,000 jobs during the construction phase, and about 15,000 jobs once operational. 

Robertson said the IHS study gives Pebble’s backers the “independent, credible analysis” it needed to push the jobs angle in Washington.

“There is no partisan divide on the desire to create jobs. So Democrats and Republicans both are interested in that,” he said.

— This story was last updated at 2:52 p.m.