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EPA proposes restrictions on Alaskan mine battle

Juneau, Alaska – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday proposed restrictions that would block plans for a copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, the latest in a long-running dispute over efforts by developers to advance the mine in a region targeted for their salmon slopes are known .

Critics of the Pebble Mine project called the move an important step in a years-long struggle to stop the mine. But John Shively, the CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, which is pursuing the mine, called the EPA’s proposal a “political maneuver” and a pre-emptive attempt to reject the project.

The EPA said in a statement the proposal would prevent the discharge of dredged or fill material into U.S. waters within the Pebble Partnership’s proposed mine site footprint.

The federal agency said it considered information that had become available since it previously proposed limiting development in 2014, including new scientific analysis and a Pebble Partnership mine plan submitted to the US Army Corps of Engineers as part of a permitting application .

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The Pebble partnership, owned by Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. is appealing a 2020 Corps decision denying approval of a key permit for the southwest Alaskan project. The leaders of the Pebble partnership had deemed an environmental review by the Corps, released several months before the rejection decision, to be favorable to the project.

The Corps Pacific Division is processing the appeal. A department spokesman, Luciano Vera, said earlier this month the corps does not have a timeline for releasing a decision but is “obliged to work as efficiently as possible to reach an objective and fair determination on the merits of this appeal.” .

Casey Sixkiller, the EPA’s administrator for the region, said Bristol Bay supports one of the most important salmon fisheries in the world. The EPA has stated that the Bristol Bay region supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and that it also contains significant mineral resources.

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“Bristol Bay, and the thousands of people who rely on it, clearly deserve the highest level of protection,” Sixkiller said in a statement.

The dispute over the project extends to several presidential administrations.

The EPA proposed restrictions on large-scale mining in the region during the Obama administration, but these were never finalized. The Pebble partners called these proposed restrictions unfair, saying they were based on hypothetical mine plans and that the project should have a chance of progressing through the permitting process.

Litigation ensued, and the parties reached an agreement during the Trump administration in 2017, in which the EPA agreed to initiate proceedings to propose the removal of the proposed restrictions. The agreement gave the Pebble partnership time to submit a permit application to the Corps, which it did.

In 2019, the EPA withdrew the proposed restrictions and removed what it described as an “obsolete pre-emptive proposed veto on the Pebble Mine.” This move was challenged in court. EPA asked a judge last year to overturn the retraction decision and return the matter to the agency for further consideration. The request was granted.

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The EPA said it will accept public comments on its latest proposal by July 5 and plans to hold public hearings.

Shively, the CEO of the Pebble Partnership, said the Pebble project “remains an important domestic source of the minerals the Biden administration needs to meet its green energy goals, and if it blocks Pebble, it needs minerals.” seek to achieve their goals from foreign sources. who just don’t have the same environmental standards as we do.”

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in a statement he encourages Alaskans “to support a full permitting process, responsible resource development, and good jobs for our state by speaking out against the EPA proposal.”

Critics of the proposed Pebble Mine have urged the EPA to provide safeguards for the Bristol Bay area. President Joe Biden as a candidate in 2020 said if elected he would “protect Bristol Bay.”

“As stewards of these lands and waters, our people applaud this move to permanently protect our waters and our way of life,” said Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a tribal consortium opposed to the pebble project. “Today’s announcement by the EPA is a good start for that effort.”

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US Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington state Democrat, in a statement commended the EPA “for promoting the continued protection of the Clean Water Act for Bristol Bay.” She said she has urged the agency to “move quickly” to complete the measures.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/business/2022/05/25/epa-proposes-restrictions-in-fight-over-alaska-mine/ EPA proposes restrictions on Alaskan mine battle

Sarah Y. Kim

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