Contact: Nelli Williams, Trout Unlimited, (907) 230-7121
ANCHORAGE, AK - Trout Unlimited was sharply critical of a memo from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, released today, in which he formally asked the EPA’s water office to propose a regulation limiting the Agency's existing Clean Water Act 404(c) authority to block permits for highly destructive projects, such as the proposed Pebble Mine project in Alaska, under certain circumstances.
"Trout Unlimited absolutely disagrees with Administrator Pruitt on this interpretation of the Clean Water Act," said Steve Moyer, vice president of Government Affairs for Trout Unlimited. "This law was put in place to protect recreation, fish, and community water supplies from the most egregious, irresponsible projects. The proposed Pebble Mine is a prime example."
EPA's 404(c) authority has only been used 13 times in the history of the nearly 50-year old Clean Water Act to block projects, and a vast majority have been used by Republican administrations.
"With the proposed Pebble Mine advancing and current permit review heavily biased in its favor, weakening the Clean Water Act 404(c) right now is an American job killer and if something goes wrong at Pebble, there is some risk of giving resource developers who are doing things responsibly a black eye," said Nelli Williams, Alaska director for Trout Unlimited.
"A fully developed Pebble Mine would be three times larger than any other mine in North America and destroy thousands of acres of wetlands and many miles of streams. It would put thousands of American jobs, a sportfishing paradise, and the local way of life directly in harm's way," Williams said. “The opposition to Pebble is broad and unrelenting for good reason."
In 2017, proposed Pebble Mine developers applied for a 404 permit seeking permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge and fill more than 4,000 acres of wetlands and streams. This request launched National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review, and the first public comment period on the project application closes this Friday.
"Over the past six months we've watched the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cut corners and compress the timeline of the NEPA process at Pebble's request. The current process is anything but rigorous. In fact, the bar has been visibly lowered," said Brian Kraft, Alaskan resident and owner of two sportfishing lodges in Bristol Bay. "The Pebble Partnership and Northern Dynasty Minerals are continuing to mislead Alaskans. Their mine plan continually changes and lacks important information critical for thorough review. We need 404(c) to stay on the books for instances like we have in Bristol Bay. It's important to have checks and balances to protect businesses and thousands of other American jobs.”
During the current scoping period, hundreds of businesses, sportsmen, commercial fishermen, and local leaders have called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend the NEPA review until basic information is obtained from the proposed Pebble Mine developers.
"Earlier this year Administrator Pruitt made a very strong statement regarding his concerns about the large, adverse impacts of the Pebble Mine," Moyer said. "His concerns make our point. Some projects are so destructive of irreplaceable resources that they should be nipped in the bud. We urge Administrator Pruitt and the EPA to reconsider the position stated in the memo and instead, look for ways to protect aquatic treasures and fulfill the promises of the Clean Water Act."
In 2010, tribal leaders, commercial fishermen and sportsmen in Alaska requested that the Clean Water Act 404(c) be applied in Bristol Bay, Alaska—a region that produces more than half the world's sockeye salmon and is a world renown recreational fishing destination. Bristol Bay fish-based industries contribute $1.5 billion in economic activity and support thousands of American jobs. This move that would have proactively restricted the amount of mine waste allowed to be dumped by Pebble, and the measure was widely supported by millions of Americans. However, a lawsuit tied up finalizing these restrictions.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. In Alaska, we work with more than 100 angling businesses and thousands of individual sportsmen and women to ensure the state’s trout and salmon resources remain healthy through our local chapters and offices in Anchorage and Juneau. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org and savebristolbay.org