Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tribal Groups Support EPA Authority in Lawsuit Over Pebble Mine

A tribal consortium from Alaska’s Bristol Bay region says it plans to intervene in the Pebble Limited Partnership’s lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency challenging EPA’s authority to potentially stop development of the Pebble mine.

United Tribes of Bristol Bay made the announcement from Dillingham, in Southwest Alaska, this past week.

United Tribes had asked the EPA to use its authority under section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act to blocks permits for the proposed massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine.  Meanwhile, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell recently announced a decision to join the lawsuit in support of the Pebble Partnership’s stand.

“The 404 (c) process over which the Pebble Partnership and the Parnell Administration is suing is the very course that the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, along with thousands of Alaskans, requested the EPA take in efforts to protect our people and region from the harmful effects of large-scale mining,” said Robert Heyano, a veteran commercial fisherman and president of United Tribes. 

“By initiating a lawsuit, the Partnership shows continued disregard for the scientific facts that prove this type of mining in Bristol Bay will be devastating to our region, a continued disinterest in the open and transparent public process we requested, and dismissal of the overwhelming desire of the Bristol Bay communities.”

Thousands of commercial fish harvesters, sport anglers and subsistence fishermen, and entities representing them have voiced concern that development of the mine near the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed could result in devastatingly adverse impacts to the fishery, upon which fish harvesters and regional wildlife are dependent.  Mine advocates maintain that the mine can be constructed and operate in harmony with the fishery.

The EPA earlier this year initiated efforts under the Clean Water Act to identify what it called appropriate options to protect the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery. The Pebble mine, said the EPA, has the potential to be one of the largest open pit copper mines ever developed and could threaten a salmon resource rare in its quality and productivity.

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