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News Brief: Pebble Mine Veto Decision Delayed

Tribal and conservation groups express disappointment and frustration.

News Brief: Pebble Mine Veto Decision Delayed

Despite movement in the right direction, Bristol Bay remains threatened by the proposed Pebble Mine. (Graphic courtesy of the Bristol Bay Defense Fund)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a revised timeline in its plans to pursue a veto to the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. A new deadline for a decision has not yet been announced, but is expected by May 31, 2022 (which was the previous deadline for the final decision).

The EPA has said it plans to use Section 404C of the Clean Water Act which basically gives EPA administrators veto power on projects where it is determined that “discharge of (dredged or fill material into the navigable waters at specified disposal sites) will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife, or recreational areas.” The prior 13 usages of Section 404C have proven durable and are all still in place.

The deadline set by the EPA for 404C protections had previously been May 31. The EPA did reaffirm its desire to protect Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine ultimately, but this decision adds uncertainty.

“We are deeply disappointed that after months of outreach to EPA officials requesting robust Tribal consultation on the process moving forward, EPA’s announcement today further delayed the years-long effort to protect Bristol Bay without hearing our input,” Alannah Hurley, Executive Director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said. “We hope the agency will clarify this timeline so that we can finally achieve permanent protections for Bristol Bay, our Tribes, and way of life as soon as this summer.”

The Pebble deposit is a massive underground cache of gold, copper, and molybdenum that sits beneath the headwaters of the Nushagak and Kvichak rivers, where the world’s largest sockeye run occurs. A see-saw battle between Northern Dynasty Minerals (NDM) and a diverse group of tribal, sportsmen’s, commercial fishing, and conservation organizations has gone on for around 20 years, since the mineral rights were first acquired and Pebble Mine murmurs began.

The biggest hope for killing the project remains with the EPA invoking Section 404C.

Click here to send a message to the EPA via Stop Pebble Mine’s website.

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