Northern Dynasty Minerals, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, is responding to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to initiate efforts to determine whether to veto the Pebble mine project, saying the process is unauthorized, unprecedented and unfounded.
In a letter submitted to the EPA on April 29, by Northern Dynasty’s Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage, the PLP’s chief executive officer, Tom Collier, said it is clear that the EPA’s intent for pre-emptive action under section 404(C) of the Clean Water Act would restrict development of the Pebble project “goes well beyond its statutory authority as established by Congress, and would have the effect of undermining the legitimate regulatory authority of the state of Alaska and the US Army Corps of Engineers.”
Collier said the EPA’s action is a precedent that will be leveraged by environmental activist groups “and will have a chilling effect on investment and job creation throughout the country. Congress never intended to grant EPA the authority to undertake proactive watershed zoning over broad areas of state and private lands when it passed the Clean Water Act, yet that is exactly what is happening here,” he said.
The EPA announced several weeks ago that it was initiating action under the Clean water Act to protect the Bristol Bay salmon fishery in advance of development of a proposed massive open pit copper, gold and molybdenum mine in Southwest Alaska. Mine proponents say the project, at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, would be developed and operated in a manner that would not adversely impact the fishery, which is critical to commercial, sport and subsistence users.
Mine proponents have been critical of the EPA’s decision to invoke the 404(C) process, while fish harvesters, environmentalists and others opposed to the mine – including Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA – are applauding the process. Thousands of commercial harvesters in both Alaska and Washington, as well as those in related businesses, depend on the Bristol Bay salmon harvests for their livelihood.
The EPA decision to initial the 404(C) process came after completion of the extensive Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, a document that mine proponents say provides insufficient scientific foundation for regulatory decision making, because the PLP has yet to submit a proposed development plan for the mine.