In a move that surprised almost everyone involved in the fight against Pebble Mine, the EPA announced on Friday that it would NOT withdraw the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Proposed Determination that would make it much more difficult for Pebble Mine to operate at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. This was a reversal of the Agency’s previous stance on May of last year, when it announced that it was initiating the process to withdraw the Proposed Determination.
While this is certainly a victory for those who seek to stop the mine, it is by no means the end of this saga. According to the press release put out by the EPA on Friday,
This decision neither deters nor derails the application process of Pebble Limited Partnership’s proposed project. The project proponents continue to enjoy the protection of due process and the right to proceed. However, their permit application must clear a high bar, because EPA believes the risk to Bristol Bay may be unacceptable.
This is an encouraging step for many Alaskan businesses and families that depend on Bristol Bay salmon. The EPA made the right decision by listening to local people, dozens of Alaskan business owners, and sportsmen and women around the country. I am thankful the EPA has ensured that widely-supported restrictions on large-scale mining in Bristol Bay will remain an option to protect our fishery. Alaskans have known for years that the Pebble mine does not belong in Bristol Bay – it’s too big of a risk to our jobs, businesses, and a sport fishing paradise. It is reassuring to see the EPA acknowledge the uniqueness of this region, and the risks Pebble mine poses.