Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Oregon Rep. DeFazio Challenges DEIS on Pebble Permit

The chair of the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., says a federal draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the application for a Clean Water Act permit for a mine in the Bristol Bay watershed is fundamentally flawed.

DeFazio sent a letter on Nov. 15 to the US Army Corps of Engineers, urging the Corps to immediately prepare a revised EIS for the Pebble mine project and take no further action on the permit application until this is accomplished.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, which is seeking the Clean Water Act Permit, is a subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals Inc., itself a subsidiary of Hunter Dickinson Inc. a diversified global mining group based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

DeFazio told Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, 54th Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the Corps, that he is deeply concerned with the Corps’ review of the permit application and the associated review of the project under the National Environmental Policy (NEPA) “are so fundamentally flawed and inadequate as to preclude any meaningful review on the likely impacts of this project – in violation of your responsibilities under both the Clean Water Act and NEPA.”

Mike Heatwole, spokesman for the Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage, Alaska, said the Corps is appropriately managing the EIS process for the project. “Most observers of the permitting process in Alaska call this one of the most transparent processes they have seen for a resource project in Alaska.”

Those who oppose development of a mine abutting the watershed, which produces the largest run of sockeye salmon in the world, spoke of their concerns about the EIS process when they testified during a subcommittee on Water Resources and Environmental hearing in Washington, DC in October chaired by DeFazio. Dennis McClerran, former head of EPA Region 10 in Seattle, Wash., told the committee that compensatory mitigation would not be effective nor appropriate to address impacts to a pristine environment, such as the Bristol Bay watershed. Richard Borden of Midgard Environmental Services LLC, in Salt Lake City, Utah, described the conceptual need to treat up to 19,000 gallons of wastewater a minute as “truly unprecedented.” Similarly, Borden told DeFazio’s subcommittee, even after formal mine closure more than 5,000 gallons of wastewater a minute would need to be managed in perpetuity, for centuries to come.

Spokespersons for the Corps said on Nov. 26 in their monthly teleconference update with news media that the Corps has received some 115,000 comments on the draft EIS and that no decision has been made yet on whether a supplemental draft EIS is required.

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