EPA sued after it withdraws proposed restrictions on mine

EPA sued after it withdraws proposed restrictions on mine

  • By BECKY BOHRER Associated Press
  • Wednesday, October 9, 2019 5:30am
  • NewsState News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency improperly withdrew proposed restrictions on mining activity in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by critics of the proposed Pebble Mine.

The lawsuit is the latest development in the ongoing fight over plans to develop a copper and gold deposit in southwest Alaska.

Opponents of the Pebble Mine worry about the impact it could have on the region known for its salmon habitat, including a prominent sockeye salmon fishery.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, which wants to develop the mine, is seeking approval of a key permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A spokeswoman in the EPA’s regional office said by email that the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Under the Obama administration, EPA proposed restrictions on development in the Bristol Bay region but never finalized them. The agency looked at three mine scenarios, two of which it said were based on statements made by Northern Dynasty Minerals, the project’s owner.

EPA, at the time, said it had reason to believe that mining of the deposit at any of the sizes it analyzed could result in “significant and unacceptable adverse effects” on streams, wetlands, lakes and ponds and the fisheries they support.

The proposal called for restricting discharge of dredged or fill material into waters that would cause loss of certain amounts of streams or wetlands or streamflow alterations.

A 2017 settlement agreement between EPA and the Pebble partnership called for EPA to initiate a process for withdrawing the proposed restrictions.

But that effort was halted last year, with the EPA saying it had serious concerns about the impacts of mining in the region and wanted more information.

Earlier this year, a memo released by the EPA from its general counsel called for its regional administrator to resume consideration of whether to withdraw the proposed restrictions.

The memo was released shortly before the EPA in July submitted comments on the corps’ draft environmental review, which the regional administrator said likely underestimated impacts the project could have on fish and other resources.

The agency, later that month, announced it was withdrawing the proposed restrictions, saying they were based on hypothetical mine scenarios and outdated now that a mine plan has been submitted. The EPA has said it plans to work with the corps to address its concerns.

The lawsuit alleges EPA has failed to provide a “reasoned explanation” for its change in position.

Mike Heatwole, a spokesman for Pebble, said by email that the Pebble partnership thinks the lawsuit is without merit, “as the EPA acted appropriately.” Pebble partnership CEO Tom Collier has said the proposed restrictions were an overreach.

Plaintiffs in the case are Bristol Bay Native Association, United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, Bristol Bay Reserve Association and Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.

More in News

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Anchor Point house fire leaves one dead, one in serious condition

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Snow and debris from an avalanche can be seen near Mile 45 on the Seward Highway on Monday, March 29, 2021. (Photo courtesy Goldie Shealy)
Center promotes avalanche awareness

The Chugach Avalanche Center in Girdwood will begin its daily forecasts Saturday.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Historic sockeye run predicted for Bristol Bay

ADF&G says 2022 run could break this year’s record

The entrance to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area in the Tongass National Forest was covered in snow on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, a day after federal authorities announced the next step in restoring the 2001 Roadless Rule on the forest. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Feds put freeze on Roadless Rule rollback

On the Roadless Rule again.

tease
Alaska man pleads not guilty to threatening 2 US senators

If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

Commercial fishing vessels are seen here on the Kenai River on July 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Fishing industry takes a hit during pandemic

Overall fish harvesting jobs in Alaska dropped by the widest margin since 2000 — 14.1% — in 2020.

FILE - The Olympic rings stand atop a sign at the entrance to the Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, Calif., on July 8, 2020. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, declared "squaw" to be a derogatory term and said she is taking steps to remove the term from federal government use and to replace other derogatory place names. The popular California ski resort changed its name to Palisades Tahoe earlier this year. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)
Interior secretary seeks to rid U.S. of derogatory place names

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday formally declared… Continue reading

Most Read