Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Consultation Period on Pebble Mine Extended by EPA

Environmental Protection Agency officials have extended until April 29 an early consultation period with state and mining interests to allow both to provide information relevant to the 404(C) process under the Clean Water Act.

The previous deadline was March 14.

The state of Alaska, as the landowner, and the Pebble Limited Partnership must provide that information to EPA. They must demonstrate to EPA that no unacceptable adverse effects to aquatic resources would result from mining the Pebble deposit, or show that actions could be taken to prevent unacceptable adverse effects to waters from such a mine.

Section 404(C) of the Clean Water Act authorizes EPA to prohibit, restrict or deny the discharge of dredged or fill material at defined sites in waters of the United States, including wetlands, whenever it determines, after notice and opportunity for public hearing, that use of such sites for disposal would have an unacceptable adverse impact on one or more of various resources, including fisheries, wildlife, municipal water supplies, or recreational areas.

The EPA began on Feb. 28, the process to identify appropriate options to protect the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, the largest of its kind in the world. There are several steps in the Clean Water Act Section 404(C) review process, and public involvement opportunities are part of the process.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy requested the action, saying that it reflects the unique nature of the Bristol Bay watershed as one of the world’s last prolific wild salmon resources, and the threat posed by the Pebble deposit, a mine unprecedented in scope and scale.

The action does not reflect an EPA policy change in mine permitting.

The PLP has maintained that the Pebble mine can be constructed and operated in harmony with the fishery, which is critical to commercial, sport and subsistence users, as well as the area’s vast numbers of wildlife.

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