Yesterday, the Kensington mine in Southeast Alaska was fined millions for mismanaging their wastewater, releasing pollution into nearby waters. Though this mine is different than Pebble, it’s a reminder of the bad track record of the industry. Worse? Pebble would have to manage many, many times more wastewater than Kensington failed to.
Similar to Pebble, Kensington didn’t even have all their pollution plans complete. This was included in their fine. If nearby water and fish resources are going to be protected, mines must have all necessary plans in place (and not just conceptual, like Pebble’s various plans are now) before permitting.
We’ve been calling out these issues for months with respect to Pebble. And we’re not the only ones. Now, we have the ear of our Senators, who are in a position to do something about it.
Alaska’s senior senator, Lisa Murkowski, made strong statements in a recent news story by KTUU about her concerns with gaps in the plan put forth by Pebble.
They seem to be more confident that they can meet the concerns that were expressed by EPA. But it was not just the EPA. It was the EPA, and the state, and the Department of Interior and other agencies that all seemed to share the same concerns. So based on where we are now, based on what I’ve seen, they have not met the requirements, in my view, for a permit to be issued. - Senator Lisa Murkowski, August 7, 2019
So what exactly are those other agencies saying? How big of a deal is this?
Below we’ve listed a few public comments from the State and Federal Agencies that highlight the need for the Army Corps of Engineers to reexamine Pebble Limited Partnership’s mine application.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
“While the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) does attempt to describe direct impacts to fish and fish habitat, it minimizes or ignores indirect, long-term impacts on downstream resources and habitat.”
State of Alaska
“Although much of the information the state has provided the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) previously has been incorporated into the DEIS, further work is necessary to ensure potential effects to the human environment from each alternative are adequately evaluated and described in the [final environmental impact statement].”
Department of the Interior
“In summary, the DEIS does not fully discuss the potential impacts of the proposed mining activity on Department of Interior-managed resources and lacks a number of important analyses that are necessary to adequately assess the project. Therefore, we recommend that the USACE prepare a revised or supplemental DEIS to resolve the significant gaps in the current document.”
Fish and Wildlife Service
“The Service recommends the USACE develop a revised DEIS that expands the scope and detail of the environmental analysis conducted to ensure the public, the USACE, the Service, and other regulatory agencies are fully informed of the potential impacts of the proposed project and are able to evaluate and compare the proposed alternatives.”
Environmental Protection Agency
“… the DEIS appears to lack certain critical information about the proposed project and mitigation, and there may be aspects of the environmental modeling and impact analysis which would benefit from being corrected, strengthened, or revised. Because of this, the DEIS likely underestimates impacts and risks to groundwater and surface water flows, water quality, wetlands, aquatic resources, and air quality from the Pebble Project.”
National Marine Fisheries Service
“The DEIS and draft EFH Assessment’s descriptions of the Pebble project are inconsistent, highly variable, and lack a complete portrayal of the entire foreseeable project over the life of the proposed mine and post-mine closure operations.”
We are thankful Agencies and now our Senator Lisa Murkowski are pointing out these gaps. Clearly, the agency in charge of Pebble’s key federal permit - the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - must do better. We will be working to ensure these concerns are fully addressed before Pebble gets anywhere closer to reality. Bristol Bay deserves nothing less than the most rigorous review possible.
If you haven’t already done so, please contact your members of Congress and urge them to do everything in their power to stop Pebble mine and the waste of taxpayer resources underway with its permit review.
Header photo by Ken Morrish