Conservation News

Pebble’s Appeal Highlights Need for Lasting, Permanent Protections, EPA Veto

ANCHORAGE—The Pebble Partnership’s plea today that the Army Corps of Engineers reverse its denial of the proposed Pebble Mine’s Clean Water Act dredge and fill permit highlights the need for durable, long-term, lasting protections for the Bristol Bay region, as well as the need for an EPA veto of the proposed Pebble Mine itself. 

“While science prevailed when the Army Corps rejected the proposed Pebble Mine’s Clean Water Act permit, this appeal shows that the Trump Administration left the door open for the Pebble Partnership and Bristol Bay is far from safe,” said SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol. “The first step is for the Biden Administration to reestablish the Clean Water Act Protections previously in place.  The second step is for Congress to protect the waters of Bristol Bay in perpetuity, as called for in Bristol Bay Tribes’ and organizations’ ‘Call to Protect Bristol Bay’.” 

Bristol Bay is the world’s greatest sockeye salmon run, providing more than 50 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon supply. For the last six years in a row, it has seen more than 50 million salmon return, with several of those returns record breaking.

Meanwhile, the Pebble Partnership has been pursuing a massive, open-pit gold, copper and molybdenum mine at the headwaters of these pristine river systems for almost two decades. After scientific study and careful consideration, in 2014, the EPA proposed protections for the surrounding waters from toxic waste and destruction from large-scale development of the mine.  At the start of the Trump Administration, however, then-Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier had a private, closed-door meeting with then EPA-administrator Scott Pruitt. As a result of that meeting, the EPA withdrew its own proposed protections, which had been requested by Bristol Bay Tribes and fishermen, and strongly supported by Alaskans across the state and millions of Americans. Shortly afterwards, Pebble applied for a permit.

Last September, Collier and Northern Dynasty Minerals (Pebble’s parent company) CEO Ron Thiessen were caught on tape bragging about their cozy relationships with Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, the White House, Army Corps officials and Alaska politicians, and expressing confidence that their political relationships would help grease them through the permitting process. They also revealed that their actual plans for the mine were not for the 20-year mine plan they had proposed, but, instead, for a 200-year mine that would result in more than 10 billion tons of toxic waste being stored behind an earthen dam at the headwaters of Bristol Bay forever.

“The proposed Pebble Mine is a toxic, region-killing project proposed and promoted by people who have proven, with their own words, that they are liars who were relying on cozy political relationships to outweigh the documented fact that Pebble would irreparably harm Bristol Bay,” Bristol said. “Even their own investors have sued them for lying. The only way to prevent Pebble from dragging Alaskans through this broken, fatally flawed ‘process’ yet again is for the EPA to follow its own scientific recommendations and to veto the project, and for legislators to follow the leadership of the Tribes, fishermen, and residents of Bristol Bay, and protect its waters in perpetuity. We urge President Biden and Congress to act swiftly and decisively to enact lasting protections for this one-of-a-kind American treasure, which is home to a vibrant Indigenous culture, provides more than 14,000 American jobs, and produces more wild salmon than anywhere else in the world.”

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