Friday, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency reversed course on the agency’s long standing efforts to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay and America’s most valuable wild salmon fishery.
In announcing a deal with Canadian-based Northern Dynasty to settle the company’s legal fight, the EPA has agreed to drop its 2014 proposed determination to protect the salmon fishery from the Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum open-pit mine proposal.
It’s hard to believe that the battle to protect America’s most valuable wild salmon fishery from the proposed Pebble Mine continues. Across America, the public has repeatedly voiced its opposition to Pebble, and its support for protecting Alaska’s Bristol Bay salmon fishery and the 14,000 hard-working fishermen it supports.
Commercial fishermen. Seafood processors. Hunters and anglers. Alaska Native communities. Jewelry retail companies. Grocery stores. Chefs. Restaurants. Churches. Scientists. They’ve all said Pebble is a bad idea. And, some of the world’s largest mining companies (Anglo American & Rio Tinto) have walked away from it.
This week, the House Natural Resources Committee held yet another hearing about the controversial Pebble Mine proposed at the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Although the Republican-led hearing was ostensibly about the “appropriate role of NEPA in the permitting process,” it was really just another attempt by the Canadian-based mining company to present itself as a victim in what it considers an unfair process by EPA to place restrictions on waste disposal from the proposed mine.
This week, President Obama traveled to Bristol Bay, Alaska, where he was welcomed with broad smiles and loud cheers by the small community of Dillingham. Despite the rainy weather, the President went out on the beach with commercial and subsistence fishermen to experience the remarkable fishery. And, the salmon obliged.
After an epic year of more than 50 million wild salmon, a few salmon were still passing through. As local leaders explained the significant of the fishery and expressed deep appreciation for his past actions in protecting it, their message was clear. The job isn’t done.
(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.
In conjunction with our partners and allies, Earthworks is proud to accept the BENNY award today on behalf of the Bristol Bay campaign to protect the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery from destructive mining. The BENNY awards are issued each year by the Business Ethics Network for successful corporate campaigns to achieve social and environmental change. Read more here.
Over the last few years, Earthworks, Nunamta Aulukestai, Natural Resources Defense Council and other local, state and national allies have worked to convince two mining giants, Anglo American and Rio Tinto, that Bristol Bay is simply the wrong place for large-scale mining. With Anglo American and Rio Tinto’s divestment from the Pebble Project in 2013 and 2014, we are one step closer to lasting protection for this phenomenal ecosystem.
Now, we look to the Environmental Protection Agency to use its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to finalize the restrictions against mine waste disposal in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, which it proposed in July 2014. These restrictions will protect the rivers, streams and wetlands that provide vital spawning grounds for the salmon to reproduce, and ensure that the Bristol Bay salmon fishery will continue to supply more than 14,000 annual jobs, produce half of the world’s supply of wild sockeye, and sustain the Alaska Native communities who rely on the salmon as their primary source of food.
Every year, millions upon millions of wild salmon return to the headwaters of Bristol Bay, like no place else on earth. Next year, a surge of more than 53 million wild salmon are predicted to return! Let’s make this the year that Bristol Bay protections are complete.
Today, Judge Holland of the U.S. District Court tossed out the Pebble Limited Partnership’s lawsuit against the EPA. Pebble sought to stop the EPA from using its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to restrict mine waste dumping from the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. Read the court decision here.
The judge ruled that the lawsuit was premature because the EPA hasn’t issued a final decision yet. The EPA initiated the 404(c) process after Alaska Native Tribes and commercial fishermen petitioned the agency in 2010 to step in to protect the Bristol Bay fishery, which is central to the culture and regional economy. The EPA has announced that it will make a final decision by February 2015. Earthworks submitted an amicus brief in support of the EPA, urging the Judge to dismiss the case. Read the press release here.
In the meantime, there is enormous local, state and national support for the EPA to issue a final decision and protect the Bristol Bay watershed from the Pebble Mine. The public comment period on the EPA’s plans for limiting mine waste disposal into the Bristol Bay watershed closed last week (Sept. 19th), with a flood of public comments supporting the EPA’s proposal.
Altogether, the EPA has received roughly 1.5 million comments on behalf of protecting the Bristol Bay fishery – demonstrating the overwhelming public support for protecting the largest wild salmon fishery on Earth.
Dillingham, AK/Washington D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received 700,000 comments in support of its plan to use its Clean Water Act authority to restrict mine waste disposal from the Pebble Mine proposed in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. When combined with previous public input, over 1.5 million comments have been submitted in favor of Bristol Bay protection, including broad and diverse support from Alaska Native Tribes, commercial fishermen, hunters and anglers, businesses like CREDO Mobile, churches, conservation groups, restaurants, jewelers and investors.