Democrats Urge EPA to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

March 11, 2021
  • Project could resurface despite denial of key permit
  • Opponents of mining in Bristol Bay want permanent protections

New EPA Administrator Michael Regan can use his authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to ensure the proposed project—now on hold—can’t resurface, at least during the current administration.

“A lack of certainty for the future of Bristol Bay is a constant, looming threat to its people and the salmon that the entire region depends on,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Rep. Jared Huffman (Calif.) said in a letter to Regan on Thursday.

The House passed measures in the previous Congress led by Huffman and DeFazio to block funding for the Pebble Mine federal permitting process.

Opponents of mining in the region would like Congress to eventually pass legislation that would permanently protect the Bristol Bay watershed.

The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are involved in the federal permitting process for the Pebble Mine project. The EPA has expressed concern over possible environmental impacts of the proposed project, but it hasn’t yet vetoed it.

The Army Corps in November 2020 rejected a key permit for the controversial Pebble copper and gold mine project, determining that it failed to comply with the Clean Water Act. The agency earlier this month accepted an appeal from the developer, Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., to reconsider the permit denial.

“Unfortunately, this permit denial is not a permanent solution, and the company could easily reapply for permits at any time,” Huffman and DeFazio told Regan. “Therefore we urge you to focus the EPA’s resources on Bristol Bay and reinstate science-based protections for this globally significant watershed and the thousands of people who depend on it.”

The EPA will review the letter and respond through appropriate channels, a spokesman said.

By:  Kellie Lunney
Source: Bloomberg Government