EPA Intends To Reverse 2014 Plan That Would Protect Bristol Bay

 

. (BECCA ELLINGSWORTH)

It seems like decades ago given today’s political climate, but it was just the winter of 2014 when the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would be “Initiating a process under the Clean Water Act to identify appropriate options to protect the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska from the potentially destructive impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.”

 

Adminstrations have changed and 360-degree reversals are in effect as well, and so today we have this from the EPA.  Here’s the release; proceed with caution.

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to withdraw its July 2014 Clean Water Act Proposed Determination that would, if finalized, have imposed restrictions on the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with the potential “Pebble Mine” in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. EPA is seeking public comment on whether to withdraw the Proposed Determination.

 EPA is consulting on the proposed withdrawal with federally recognized tribal governments of the Bristol Bay region and with Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Regional and Village Corporations with lands in the Bristol Bay watershed. The public comment and tribal consultation process allows EPA to hear from the public before final decisions are made. After the close of the public comment and tribal consultation process, the EPA will decide whether to issue a final withdrawal of the 2014 Proposed Determination. EPA is also requesting public comment on whether the EPA Administrator should review and reconsider a final withdrawal decision, if such a decision is made.

 Public Comment Information

Public comments on EPA’s proposals must be received on or before 90 days from the date of publication of the Federal Register Notice. Comments may be emailed to:  ow-docket@epa.govwith docket number EPA-R10-OW-2017-0369 in the email subject line.

 For more information, including the pre-publication Federal Register Notice announcing this public comment period, visit: https://www.epa.gov/bristolbay.

 Background

In 2014, EPA’s Region 10 completed a multi-year effort to assess the Bristol Bay watershed, and then issued a Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Proposed Determination to restrict discharges of dredge or fill material into the watershed from mining the Pebble deposit. Section 404 is the part of the Clean Water Act that governs the permit evaluation process for actions that discharge dredged or fill material into waters of the United States. EPA agreed to initiate a process to propose to withdraw the Proposed Determination as part of a May 11, 2017 settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership, whose subsidiaries own the mineral claims to the Pebble deposit. The agreement provides Pebble additional time to apply for a Clean Water Act 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before EPA moves any further with its Clean Water Act Section 404(c) review.

Those public comments should be interesting, no?

Save Bristol Bay has released a statement:

 

ANCHORAGE, AK – Sportsmen and business owners throughout the Bristol Bay region and Alaskans remain steadfast in their opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine despite today’s announcement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to withdraw the July 2014 Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Proposed Determination that, if finalized, would have applied up-front restrictions mining activities that harm salmon in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. 
Brian Kraft of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodges replied with the following statement:
“It’s absurd that the EPA and our elected officials are bending over backwards to appease a foreign mining company at the expense of good-paying Alaskan jobs. Alaskans have made it clear time and again that developing the Pebble Mine in the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery is a terrible idea. Just look at the salmon pouring into these rivers right now….that’s money for businesses and communities, that’s food for our families. Pebble will always be a bad idea.” 

Nanci Morris Lyon owner of Bear Trail Lodge and resident of King Salmon, Alaska replied:
“It is incredibly disappointing that leaders in Washington D.C. are turning their backs on hard working Alaskans.  Bristol Bay salmon are what makes our communities and local economy hum this time of year.  People come from all over the world to experience this fishery. The 11 billion tons of waste that Pebble Mine would produce risks salmon and thousands of jobs and businesses. That’s clearly putting Alaskans and American resources last.”

During the EPA’s peer reviewed scientific assessment and review of the threats posed by the proposed Pebble Mine to Bristol Bay’s world-class fisheries, more than 1.6 million Americans and 99 percent of all individuals who submitted comments were in favor of up-front protections for the Bristol Bay region.  Bristol Bay is a source of sustainable American jobs, a commercial fishing industry valued at $1.5 billion per year and a dream vacation destination for hunters and anglers around the world. 

 

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