Story at a glance

  • The agency in a legal filing Thursday announced its intent to undo the 2019 decision by the Trump administration to withdraw protections for regions of Bristol Bay.
  • If the move is finalized, it would protect the waterway over the long term and deal a blow to the already imperiled Pebble Project.
  • Pebble Limited Partnership notes a 2020 Environmental Impact Statement from the Army Corps of Engineers said “the project can be done without harm to the region’s fisheries or water resources.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking steps to restore protections to Alaska’s Bristol Bay Watershed, a move that could permanently block the development of a controversial copper and gold mine in the area. 

The agency in a legal filing Thursday announced its intent to undo the 2019 decision by the Trump administration to withdraw protections for regions of Bristol Bay. The move would reinstate the Obama administration’s 2014 effort to protect the area under Section 404(c) the Clean Water Act. 

If the move is finalized, it would protect the waterway over the long term and deal a blow to the already imperiled Pebble Mine Project. 

“The Bristol Bay Watershed is an Alaskan treasure that underscores the critical value of clean water in America,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement

“Today’s announcement reinforces once again EPA’s commitment to making science-based decisions to protect our natural environment. What’s at stake is preventing pollution that would disproportionately impact Alaska Natives, and protecting a sustainable future for the most productive salmon fishery in North America,” Regan added. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last fall rejected Pebble Mine’s permits, arguing the mine developer’s plans to deal with tens of millions of tons of rock and fill material from the mine does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines. The decision was a win for Indigenous, environmental and fishing groups who opposed the large open-pit operation and said it threatened to wipe out the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. 


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Pebble Limited Partnership, the company behind the project, appealed the decision. 

In a statement to Changing America, Pebble Limited Partnership spokesman Mike Heatwole noted a 2020 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from the Army Corps of Engineers found “the project can be done without harm to the region’s fisheries or water resources.” 

“The EIS further notes the tremendous economic opportunity the project represents for the communities around Iliamna Lake where year-round jobs are scarce, and costs of living are quite high,” Heatwole said. 

“As the Biden Administration seeks lower carbon emissions for energy production, they should recognize that such change will require significantly more miner production — notably copper. The Pebble Project remains an important domestic source for the minerals necessary for the administration to reach its green energy goals,” he added. 

Heatwole said Pebble Limited Partnership is monitoring developments closely to determine the impacts to the project and permitting process. 


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Published on Sep 09, 2021