(Anchorage, AK; Washington DC) Today, the U.S. District Court in Anchorage, Alaska heard oral arguments on a lawsuit filed by the Pebble Limited Partnership that alleged that the EPA violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act when it made its decision to restrict mine waste disposal in Bristol Bay under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. Judge Holland started the proceedings by noting that his decision dismissing Pebble’s challenge to EPA’s Clean Water Act authority had been affirmed by the Ninth Circuit.
Pebble claimed that anti-mining groups helped the EPA write the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment that formed the scientific basis of their decision. Since November 2014 the EPA has been precluded by preliminary injunction from completing its Clean Water Act review. Although Judge Russel Holland heard oral arguments from DOJ and Pebble, he did not issue a decision today. A decision will be issued at a later date, and the preliminary injunction remains in place until that time.
“People in the Bristol Bay region asked EPA to conduct the watershed assessment,” said Kimberly Williams, executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai, an association of ten native village corporations and Tribes. “There has been years of uncertainty and I hope the Court will resolve this quickly so that EPA can finish the process,” she continued. “We heard Pebble’s lawyer complain that other people have tried to influence EPA, just the same way Pebble has tried to influence EPA. Really what Pebble wants is just a fishing expedition for discovery and delay.”
“The fate of our nation’s most valuable wild salmon fishery and 14,000 jobs hang in the balance,” said Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks. “We hope the court will decide soon and allow the EPA to finish the job it started and protect Bristol Bay once and for all.”