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 VitterYou're fired! Why it's time to ditch the Fed's community banker seat Overnight Energy: Trump set to propose sharp cuts to EPA, energy spending Former La. official tapped as lead offshore drilling regulator MORE (R-La.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Alaska’s senators, Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMoore digs in amid mounting GOP criticism Republicans float pushing back Alabama special election Moore defends himself as pressure mounts MORE (R) and Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map 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 MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayA bipartisan bridge opens between the House and Senate Overnight Health Care: ObamaCare sign-ups surge in early days Collins, Manchin to serve as No Labels co-chairs MORE (Wash.), Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDemocrats oppose effort to delay or repeal Interior methane rule Senators spar over proposal to drill in Alaska wildlife refuge Fake quorum calls are an excuse for the Senate's inaction MORE (Wash.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerFour more lawmakers say they’ve been sexually harassed by colleagues in Congress California Hispanics are the vanguard for a new political paradigm Trump riles Dems with pick for powerful EPA job MORE (Calif.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenators push mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff Bipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program Senate panel to hold hearing on bump stocks MORE (Calif.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDems mull big changes after Brazile bombshell Dems push clearer GMO labeling Dems cheer Flake after scathing Trump speech 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.