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 VitterSenators aim to bolster active shooter training 5 takeaways from Mike Lee’s leadership bid Republicans demand shift in Obama’s ISIS strategy MORE (R-La.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Alaska’s senators, Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiThe Hill's 12:30 Report Bishop eyes new Puerto Rico bill after recess Week ahead: Senate looks to wrap up energy, water spending bill MORE (R) and Mark BegichMark BegichEx-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium Dem ex-lawmakers defend Schumer on Iran 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 MurrayOvernight Healthcare: Medicare fight looms on Capitol Hill Senate GOP hardening stance against emergency funding for Zika Overnight Healthcare: More trouble for Zika funding MORE (Wash.), Maria CantwellMaria CantwellThis week: Congress on track to miss Puerto Rico deadline Week ahead: Senate looks to wrap up energy, water spending bill Senate, House face time crunch on energy bill MORE (Wash.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerCarter pledges probe of sex assault testimony Senate panel backs B water bill with Flint aid The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Calif.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinIntel leaders push controversial encryption draft Democrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment Durbin: Iran amendment could kill energy bill MORE (Calif.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOvernight Finance: Fed steady on rates; Dems rally behind retirement rule Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico pressure builds; Big tariff vote Wednesday Senate votes to increase wind energy funding 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.