Today, Trout Unlimited announced that we are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over their decision to withdraw protections for Bristol Bay that were established in the 2014 Bristol Bay Proposed Determination. These protections would have limited how much Pebble would be allowed to impact the world-class salmon and water resources of the region.
The lawsuit follows an announcement by Bristol Bay Tribes and organizations yesterday filing a similar suit. The groups allege that the EPA broke the law when it ignored science and the potential impacts of developing the mine when it withdrew the Proposed Determination. (If you’re rusty, we’ve included *Proposed Determination 101 below!)
There is no reason for the EPA to remove the Proposed Determination other than to help Pebble secure its key permit. This is unacceptable, and we are calling them out for it. You can support this work by making a donation today.
What we have here is politics coming before science. Earlier this summer, we learned that EPA scientists supported keeping the Proposed Determination, but - thanks to Pebble’s multi-million-dollar D.C. lobbying efforts - were steamrolled by political staffers within the agency who directed them to withdraw the widely supported Proposed Determination.
Alaska’s U.S. Senators have also raised concerns over significant issues with Pebble’s permitting process, which has been rushed and, again, lacking in science and detail. Notice a theme here?
While neither Senators have publicly supported or opposed the project, Senator Dan Sullivan stated, “The burden of proof is now on Pebble and [Pebble’s permitting agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] to substantially address these concerns based on science as required by the federal law.” Senator Murkowski said she “wants to make sure that the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA look very critically to those gaps, those deficiencies, and work to address them. If they are unable to address them, then a permit should not be issued.” She followed this up by releasing report language to the Senate Appropriations committee that urges the Army Corps to correct identified gaps in Pebble’s plan and science.
The Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA, and Pebble need to be held accountable. With your help, we will continue to advocate for strong science to be prioritized throughout this process because we know that Pebble mine cannot withstand scientific scrutiny and cannot coexist safely with the fishery.
Alaskans have repeatedly called out the permitting agency for their wholly inadequate evaluation of the impacts of this project and the threats it brings to Bristol Bay. Our elected officials have taken steps in the right direction to ensure that a science-based and robust permit review process is restored. And now, we will call on the court to restore order to a process that has been driven off the tracks by a foreign mining company that if not stopped, will ruin the best wild salmon fishery in North America.
*Proposed Determination 101
What is the Proposed Determination?
If finalized, the Proposed Determination would have safeguarded Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble mine and other large-scale industrial development by limiting the amount of mine waste that could be disposed of in Bristol Bay’s rivers and wetlands. These limits were made after the EPA found a mine like Pebble would have “significant” and potentially “catastrophic” impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed.
How was the Proposed Determination created?
The Proposed Determination was released in July 2014 after the EPA extensively analyzed the Bristol Bay Watershed and the effects of large-scale mining in the Pebble deposit area. Tribes, communities, fishermen and businesses of Bristol Bay requested the EPA undergo the process, and the Agency conducted a three-year, twice-peer reviewed scientific assessment to reach their findings. Over 1.5 million comments were submitted across the country on the proposal, 85.9% of which were in support of strong protections for Bristol Bay.
The protections in the Proposed Determination are the reason most people thought the Pebble mine was dead. Now, those protections are gone.