The fallout of the long-anticipated release of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers final Environmental Impact Statement for the Pebble Mine proposal is just beginning. Expect not just pushback but legal action as the project received quite a boost when the Corps proposed an alternative mining site in the Bristol Bay region, home to one of the world’s great salmon ecosystems. The Trump administration is reportedly on board with the plan.
From the Anchorage Daily News:
The Trump administration on Friday is expected to release a final environmental review of the proposed Pebble copper and gold mine in Southwest Alaska that will smooth the path for the mine’s eventual development, finding that it should not hurt the long-term health of the valuable Bristol Bay salmon fishery.
Conservation groups swiftly condemned the review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post — as inadequate and disagreed with its conclusion. They say it contradicts a 2014 review under President Barack Obama that found the mine would severely damage the Bristol Bay watershed.
Here is some more reaction from the report’s final submission, which will be further analyzed and then decided on after at least a 30-day wait:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, slammed an environmental analysis released by the Trump administration that could pave the way for approval of the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska:
“Mining and fish spawning habitat don’t mix. Mining pollution not only kills fish, but it can permanently destroy their habitat. Building a mine on top of an estuary kills salmon and the jobs that depend on them. That’s why this decision is shameful. We have seen analysis after analysis—including from the Trump administration’s own EPA—showing the Pebble Mine will irreparably harm Bristol Bay and over 50 million salmon that return to the watershed every year. But the administration has chosen to push forward and help special interests at the expense of Pacific Northwest fishermen, Alaska Native communities, shipbuilders, suppliers, sportsmen, restaurants, and so many others. Whatever the administration may say, this fight is not over.”
Senator Cantwell has long fought to protect the Bristol Bay watershed and its important environmental and economic place in the Pacific Northwest. In January of 2014, she called on the Obama administration to protect Bristol Bay from mining after a report showed the proposed mine would threaten salmon runs and damage the commercial fishing industry. In July of 2014, Cantwell praised proposed science-based protections for the Bristol Bay watershed. In October of 2017, Cantwell and other members of the Washington state congressional delegation urged President Trump to listen to Washington fishermen and businesses before removing protections from Bristol Bay. In May 2018, Cantwell called on the Trump administration to hold public meetings in Washington state on the proposal and increase transparency for the permitting process. And in July 2019, Cantwell slammed the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw protections for Bristol Bay.
WASHINGTON (July 24, 2020) – The final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine — released by SalmonState — fails to adequately describe or address the massive environmental impacts the proposed open-pit copper and gold mine will have on Bristol Bay, a pristine area that is critical for Alaskan tribal communities and the Alaskan salmon fishery.
“Bristol Bay is the most important salmon fishery in the world and supports tens of thousands of jobs,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The science is overwhelmingly clear: the proposed Pebble Mine is a catastrophe waiting to happen. It’s simply unconscionable to fast-track such a high-risk project with a shoddy environment review that failed to evaluate the consequences should the proposed six-story dam fail and release 10 billion gallons of toxic waste into Bristol Bay’s treasured, pristine ecosystem. The administration should instead put a stop to this project and protect Alaska’s salmon and the communities that depend upon Bristol Bay. Since they won’t, we will see them in court.”
We knew this day was coming and again, we need your voices!
After one of the fastest EIS processes in recent memory, today the United States Army Corps of Engineers has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Pebble Mine. To be clear: This is NOT a permit, but this means they are moving closer to their first major permit.
Time is running out, but this fight is far from over. We need to make sure that our elected officials representing us in Washington, D.C. take a stand against Pebble Mine.
62% of Alaskans oppose Pebble. They know that Pebble would cause massive, irreversible damage to Bristol Bay and jeopardize the more than 14,000 Alaskan jobs that depend on the salmon fishery.
Last year, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan both have highlighted the “high bar” and the “burden of proof” Pebble and the Corps must meet during the environmental analysis. But as the PLP and the Army Corps rushes to complete its process, these requirements have not been met. Countless outstanding issues raised by other agencies and independent experts remain unanswered and ignored. In fact, in response to external critiques, the Army Corps has turned inward and moved faster to get its impact statement out the door. It’s as if the main goal of the agency is to make sure Pebble’s CEO gets his $12.5 million bonus – due on delivery of the Record of Decision – rather than serve the public good.
The Pebble Mine environmental impact analysis has been infected with politics at its worst from the outset and puts Alaska’s greatest renewable resource and job creator at risk. We need leadership now.
Alaskans oppose Pebble. We need our leaders to oppose Pebble and demand that the EPA veto Pebble Mine.
Defend Bristol Bay
ANCHORAGE, AK — A final environmental analysis for the proposed Pebble mine released today shows more than 191 miles of streams and 4,614 acres of wetlands would be impacted if phase one of the proposed Pebble mine advances, with 185 miles and 3,841 acres facing permanent impacts.
“Granting this permit would hand over the keys to America’s most valuable salmon fishery to a foreign-owned company with no history of successfully developing or operating a mine,” says Simon Perkins, president of The Orvis Company. “The proposed Pebble mine represents not only a direct threat to the fishery, but also a significant threat to the outdoor economy and commercial fishing industry, which so many businesses and communities in Bristol Bay and nationally rely on for financial security. If we care about American jobs, industry, environment, and culture, the only reasonable option at this point is to deny the permit.”
The Orvis Company, Trout Unlimited, Katmai Service Providers, and hundreds of other sporting businesses and organizations, along with tens of thousands of sportsmen and women, recently called on the President, and his administration, to deny the permit because of the massive impacts it would have to Bristol Bay’s fisheries and its $1.6 billion fishing industry. Additionally, the groups reiterate the scientific consensus that estimated impacts likely are vastly underestimated due to Pebble’s incomplete mine plan and the Corps’ inadequate subsequent review.
“This process has outlined significant destruction of critical fish habitat and it is acknowledged by the Army Corps that the likelihood of expansion is highly probable, thus making the current plan unrealistic. The document also assumes that Pebble will be able to cross private lands, which, as of now, it does not have the permission to do,” said Brian Kraft, president of Katmai Service Providers, which represents dozens of sportfishing and tourism businesses in Bristol Bay. “If this administration wants to uphold rural American jobs, then the only option is to deny this permit.”
Sen. Murkowski, Alaska Gov. Dunleavy and Pebble executives have stated that if the fish resources will be harmed, the proposed mine should not receive a permit. Federal and state agencies have raised significant concerns over the Corps’ analysis thus far, including as recently as few months ago during review of the preliminary final Environmental Impact Statement. Many of their concerns remain unanswered in the Final Environmental Impact Statement issued today.
“The Bristol Bay region is the crown jewel of America’s fishing. It’s an economic powerhouse,” said Chris Wood, CEO of Trout Unlimited. “All we need to do to keep it intact is to have the wisdom to leave it alone.”
Additionally, A 40-year study of the Bristol Bay region by the University of Washington credits the region’s healthy wild salmon fishery to “the portfolio effect,” in which the health of the entire system depends on the diversity and multitude of habitat in the region, and is threatened by developments like the proposed Pebble mine that chip away at intact habitat, according to the research.
The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to issue its decision on the permit within the next couple months after releasing its final Environmental Impact Statement.