The EPA Is Right to Be Careful About Pebble Mine Plan

we have merely proposed restrictions on the size of large-scale mining at the Pebble site.

May 22, 2015

Regarding Kimberley Strassel’s “The Greens’ Back Door at the EPA”(Potomac Watch, May 15): Bristol Bay is a wild and largely undisturbed watershed that is home to the world’s greatest sockeye salmon fishery. It’s an economic powerhouse supporting 14,000 jobs and a subsistence way of life for Bristol Bay’s Alaska Natives for more than 4,000 years. People who rely on those jobs and resources have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for years as the Pebble Partnership has pledged repeatedly, yet failed, to apply for a Clean Water Act permit to develop the mine. As described by the last remaining Pebble partner in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Pebble mine could result in a pit as deep as the Grand Canyon and produce up to 10 billion tons of acid-generating waste.

EPA staff spent three years evaluating science, conducting hearings and reviewing one million public comments in developing the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. That process included two independent peer reviews and a robust public outreach process in which Pebble Partnership readily participated. No process could have been more transparent and inclusive of all views, including for proponents of the Pebble Mine.

The EPA subsequently initiated the multistep Clean Water Act 404(c) evaluation process in February 2014 and is still in the midst of that process. A quick search by Ms. Strassel would have revealed that the EPA hasn’t even proposed, much less issued, a “pre-emptive veto of the Pebble Mine.” Rather, we have merely proposed restrictions on the size of large-scale mining at the Pebble site with the goal of protecting the most lucrative sockeye fishery on the planet.

Clean Water Act Section 404(c) is an authority Congress granted the EPA to protect our nation’s most important natural resources. The EPA applies this authority judiciously, having used it only 13 times in the last 42 years. In contrast, the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA approve thousands of 404 permits each year.

Furthermore, it was irresponsible to ascribe subversive motives to a career EPA attorney who has simply been doing her job by asking outside lawyers to direct communication through EPA attorneys rather than through staff.

Dennis McLerran

EPA Region 10 Administrator