Here we are again: Pebble Mine is another step closer to becoming a reality–yes, thanks to the Trump administration. Yesterday, the EPA withdrew its 2014 proposed determination that would have restricted Pebble Mine and protected Bristol Bay. This determination derives from Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, which gives the EPA Administrator authorization to “prohibit the specification of any defined area as a disposal site [mining materials]”. Bristol Bay fit this determination very well, as it is one of the world’s most productive salmon spawning grounds.

Yet, in a move that appears all too political and not based on scientific findings, the EPA is ‘punting’ its authority to the Army Corps of Engineers. When it comes to Pebble Mine, the Corps has been criticized by many because of their inadequate Draft Environmental Impact Statement and overall rushed process. With this questionable track record, Bristol Bay might be in its most perilous state yet.

This also comes after two prior EPA decisions that seemed to bolster the 2014 determination. In January 2018, then EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt could not rationalize the decision to withdraw the determination, saying “it is my judgement at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there”. Similarly, just several weeks ago, the EPA wrote to the Army Corps of Engineers that:

“the DEIS appears to lack certain critical information about the proposed project and mitigation, and there may be aspects of the environmental modeling and impact analysis which would benefit from being corrected, strengthened, or revised.”

CEO of Trout Unlimited, Chris Wood, had this to say: “Sixty million fish can’t be wrong. That’s how many sockeye returned to Bristol Bay last year. That’s the resource that is being put at risk by this unjustified and fundamentally boneheaded decision. We have spent $18 billion on unsuccessful efforts to try and recover salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers, meanwhile Alaska’s resource is outstanding and all we have to do to keep it intact is have the good sense to leave it alone. We will look at all options—including litigation—to protect Bristol Bay from large-scale industrial mining.”

As we, and many others, have been saying this whole time, Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong location. Furthermore, this decision to withdraw the 2014 determination goes against nearly 450,000 comments submitted to the EPA that supported the action. Consistently, Alaskans and stakeholders have expressed their strong preference to protect the salmon and Bristol Bay, but Pebble Mine continues to inch closer to a reality.

For more on this issue, check out this TU press release and this Natural Resources Defense Council blog post.

Photos courtesy of @flyoutmedia

This article was written by Flylords’ Conservation Editor, Will Poston.

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