Alaskan Fishing Community Reacts To Reprsentative’s Bristol Bay Comments

Alaska’s Sportsman’s Lodge at Bristol Bay.
Rep. Lamar Smith

Yesterday, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Adminstrator Scott Pruitt, who just began his tenure in that post.

Here’s the key point in Smith’s EPA letter:

“The Committee recommends that the incoming Administration rescind the EPA’s proposed determination to use Section 404(c) in a preemptive fashion for the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.  This simple action will allow a return to the long-established Clean Water Act permitting process and stop attempts by the EPA to improperly expand its authority.  Moreover, it will create regulatory certainty for future development projects that will create jobs and contribute to the American economy.”

Two prominent members of Alaska’s fishing community, which has worked to block the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay’s rich salmon watershed were understandably concerned about Smith’s salvo. Here they are:

Brian Kraft of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodges:

“It needs to be recognized that rescinding any action to protect Bristol Bay harms American businesses like mine. The EPA was asked to protect the waters of Bristol Bay by Alaskan residents. Their action was supported by an overwhelming majority of Alaskans and people from around the country. The EPA has NOT vetoed anything with regards to the Pebble. The EPA simply set standards by which Northern Dynasty must meet to obtain permits. Northern Dynasty itself has asked to be held to the highest standard possible. Nothing is, nor ever has, prevented Northern Dynasty from applying and receiving permits to mine. They simply have to adhere to standards that will ensure that their operations do not destroy the existing intact functioning ecosystem that supports the largest salmon run in the world, which culture and many American businesses depend upon. What is wrong with setting high standards to protect the largest wild fishery left on the planet?”
Nelli Williams of Trout Unlimited in Anchorage:

“Alaskans learned long ago that Pebble cannot be trusted. Decision makers should be cautious before casting aside the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery and American jobs in favor of a foreign-owned mine against the wishes of local residents, a majority of Alaskans and sportsmen the world over. Alaskans have said loud and clear that Pebble is not welcome here.” 

Northern Dynasty Minerals, the company vying to open the mine at Bristol Bay, also released a statement, which read in part:

Since 2014, Northern Dynasty and its 100%-owned subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership (“Pebble Partnership”) have advanced a multi-prong strategy — including litigation, Congressional outreach, independent investigations, among other initiatives – to encourage EPA to withdraw its unprecedented regulatory action against Pebble. The Congressional Science, Space and Technology Committee has held several Pebble-related hearings in recent years, finding that EPA actions concerning the mineral development project in southwest Alaska were based on “a questionable scientific assessment that relied on predetermined conclusions,” and that “EPA employees colluded with Pebble Mine opponents to stop the project.”

Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen said the Committee’s letter provides even greater impetus for EPA Administrator Pruitt to take timely action to reverse what many see as one of the leading examples of EPA over-reach, and return the Pebble Project to normal course permitting and the rule of law.

“All we have ever asked is for the opportunity to propose a comprehensive development plan for the Pebble Project, and to have it fairly and objectively reviewed against the extremely rigorous environmental standards and permitting requirements enforced in Alaska and the United States. Today, we are one step closer to earning that opportunity.”