By now, many of you have seen the news that a Federal Judge in Alaska issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to stop moving forward on issuing protections for Bristol Bay under the Clean Water Act. The court decision puts the Clean Water Act protections Alaskans have asked for on temporary pause while Pebble re-submits its lawsuit to the judge for further review.
The decision does not mean Pebble has won its case, but they have successfully delayed protections for salmon in the near-term.
Here’s the full story as it stands now. Pebble Limited Partnership filed three lawsuits in a last-ditch effort trying as much as they can to delay the Clean Water Act process.
The first lawsuit was thrown out of Federal District Court, but Pebble has appealed its decision and we’re awaiting a decision from the Appeals Court.
Another is in very early stages of review and unlikely to influence the Clean Water Act process.
Pebble made three claims in the third lawsuit, which is the one that has been in the news lately. In last week’s decision, the judge reviewed two of Pebble’s allegations and concluded that “the court is unpersuaded that plaintiff [Pebble] is likely to succeed on the merits” of their claims. On the third and final claim of the case, the judge found that Pebble’s claims were so poorly written he directed Pebble to re-write and re-submit their court documents for further review. The decision says, “The court is persuaded that plaintiff has demonstrated a fair chance of success on the merits – at least raising a question serious enough to justify litigation – with respect to the [third claim]." So, further legal proceedings can begin once Pebble reviews and resubmits its claim.
As you can imagine, press on this has been confusing at best.
Here are the key points to keep in mind:
The ruling doesn’t diminish the strong science. It’s still clear the Pebble Mine has terrible implications for Alaska’s water, fish and the many people and businesses who rely on them.
The decision doesn’t diminish EPA’s authority to use its 404(c) authority granted by the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay.
This is Pebble’s attempt to create every road block they can muster, filing costly and unnecessarily convoluted lawsuits in an attempt to bog down the courts instead of working to file a permit. The mine flies in the face of science, the will of the Alaska people, and an unprecedented coalition of Alaskans seeking sensible protections for Bristol Bay. Even Pebble’s major investors have backed out of the project because it is indeed the wrong mine in the wrong place. At this point, legal antics are all they have left.
It is disappointing the judge doesn’t acknowledge harm to the people of Bristol Bay. Though this case does nothing to prevent the EPA from using science to protect an incredible economic and environmental resource, it is disappointing that the judge failed to acknowledge the economic and cultural harm the decade-old shadow of Pebble has cast on the Bristol Bay region.
And, most importantly:
We need your help now more than ever! By delaying the Clean Water Act protections, Pebble has given more time to for new US Congressional leaders to undermine the Clean Water Act and remove the protections we’ve asked for. Please contact your elected leaders using this form and follow our Facebook page to stay up to date on important actions you can take to help protect the waters of Bristol Bay.
Moving forward, we hope the legal process is quickly – and fully – resolved so the people of Bristol Bay can get back to doing what they do best: operating and sustaining the world’s greatest wild sockeye salmon fishery. We will keep you posted as we learn more, so stay tuned!
-The Save Bristol Bay Team