Rep. Huffman Praises EPA Steps to Protect Bristol Bay; Urges Permanent Protections for Salmon Against Pebble Mine

September 09, 2021

San Rafael, CA – Today, Representative Jared Huffman (D- San Rafael) issued the following statement regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement that they will restart a Clean Water Act review process that would protect Bristol Bay, Alaska from the proposed Pebble Mine project.

“I’m pleased to see the EPA take responsibility to restart a science-based protection process that was tossed out under the Trump administration. There is no time to waste: the EPA must restart their Clean Water Act review to protect Bristol Bay now, before the whims of another nefarious administration derail the process again,” said Rep. Huffman.  “The area’s world-famous sockeye salmon and the communities that depend upon a healthy environment should not have to face continual threats from unrelenting environmental atrocities like the Pebble Mine. This announcement is a great first step – and now the EPA must follow through as soon as possible.”

Chair of the House Transportation Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said, “The Pebble Mine proposal was always a bad idea, and I am relieved the Biden EPA is finally taking steps to protect the indigenous and fishing communities that rely on the world’s largest salmon habitat.” Chair DeFazio said. “By restarting the Clean Water Act review, the EPA has the opportunity to save the Bristol Bay region from certain catastrophe and reverse the dangerous course set by the Trump administration, which ignored both science and common sense. I have no doubt that this review will reaffirm what we already know: Bristol Bay is no place for an open pit mine.”

The EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, released in 2014, provided a detailed assessment of the biological and mineral resources of the Bristol Bay watershed and the potential adverse impacts of proposed mining. In 2019, the Trump administration – without procedural or scientific justification – eliminated this detailed scientific assessment and the associated Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay. Without the protections that a final Clean Water Act 404(c) determination would have provided, the area remains at risk.

The 9th Circuit of Appeals Court, in the case Trout Unlimited et al. v. Pirzadeh et al., recently ruled that the Trump administration’s 2019 decision is reviewable under the Administrative Procedures Act. Today’s announcement indicates that the EPA will accept the voluntary remand issued by the court and restart the 404(c) process at the 2014 proposed determination, paving the way for a final determination that would protect Bristol Bay.

Rep. Huffman has been a vocal opponent of the Pebble Mine project: in March 2021, he wrote a letter to the EPA asking them to take this action, and has led letters opposing the Army Corps of Engineers issuing flawed permitting of the Pebble Mine. He also led amendments in both the FY2020 and FY2021 appropriations bills barring the federal government from moving forward with an Army Corps of Engineers permit.