Bristol Bay Groups File Brief Regarding Pebble Mine Company’s EPA Lawsuit (Updating)

A group of Bristol Bay businesses and organizations posted the following press release:

Bristol Bay Tribes, Businesses, & Commercial Fishermen File Motion to Intervene in Northern Dynasty Minerals & Pebble Limited Partnership Lawsuit Challenging EPA’s Clean Water Act Final Determination for Bristol Bay

(Dillingham, Alaska) —  Today, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Native Association, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, and Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay jointly  moved to intervene in a challenge by Northern Dynasty Minerals and Pebble Limited Partnership to the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to protect our nation’s clean waters from the mining of the Pebble ore deposit.

After decades of study, the EPA determined that the mine would have unacceptable adverse effects on Bristol Bay’s resources, fishing industry, and communities.  Northern Dynasty’s challenge to EPA’s decision was filed in federal court in Alaska, and the Bristol Bay organizations moved to intervene in the case to ensure that the interests of the region, its Native communities, resources, environment, and economy remain protected and secure.

Below are statements from the organizations that filed the motion to intervene: 

“With today’s filing, the people of Bristol Bay are standing up for our region and our way of life.  For decades, Bristol Bay Tribes, a majority of Alaskans, along with people across the country, have voiced their opposition to Northern Dynasty and its plans to develop the Pebble Mine,” said Shelley Cotton, Chief Strategy Director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act Final Determination is the result of years of effort by our people to protect the place we call home.  We have made our voices heard throughout the world.  And now we are taking our voice to the courts.”        

“Pebble mine would jeopardize the world’s most pristine wild sockeye salmon habitat, tens of thousands of fishing-related jobs, and a salmon-based Alaska Native culture that dates back millennia. EPA relied on sound science, a thorough process, and the voices of tens of thousands of Alaskans to issue its Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Final Determination,” said Russell Nelson, BBNC Board Chair.“While we are confident these basic facts will prevail in court, Congress can and should also put this matter to rest by providing additional protections for Bristol Bay. Rep. Peltola’s Bristol Bay Protection Act is a good starting point, and we look forward to working with the entire Alaska delegation to ensure Bristol Bay’s future remains free of Pebble mine.”

“As we head into another fishing season, it is frustrating and disappointing to have to be fighting Pebble Limited Partnership again. The men and women who fish in Bristol Bay each summer and feed people from coast to coast deserve better than to worry about destructive mining projects like the Pebble Mine polluting the watershed and taking away their jobs,” said Nels Ure, Communications Director for CFBB. “This intervention is a testament to our unwavering commitment to protecting this invaluable region that sustains Tribes, communities, fishermen, and wildlife. Although we are confident that the Court will uphold the EPA’s Clean Water Act protections, the people of Alaska and all those who rely on this watershed deserve lasting certainty that Bristol Bay will be protected from the Pebble Mine and all other destructive mining projects. It’s critical that our elected officials pass legislation to protect all of Bristol Bay forever,” 

“As businesses that rely on Bristol Bay and its salmon fisheries, we know just how important the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act protections are. Bristol Bay is critical for providing high-quality, sustainable seafood to consumers around the world,” said Liliani Dunn, Executive Director of the Bristol Bay Seafood Development Association. “Unfortunately, Pebble Limited Partnership has not given up on fighting for their destructive mining project – despite the science showing this project would inevitably damage Bristol Bay’s watershed and the public standing in firm opposition to it – making it critical that we file this motion to intervene. We are committed to working alongside the Tribes, fishermen, and local communities to ensure that Bristol Bay is protected for our future generations.” 

“Culturally and spiritually, Bristol Bay’s salmon fisheries are the lifeblood of our tribal communities. It is deeply disappointing that Pebble Limited Partnership and the State of Alaska seek to put the profits of a foreign mining company over our critical resources that have sustained our customary and traditional way of life for generations and a resource that feeds people from all around the world, said Anthony Gregorio, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bristol Bay Native Association. “We intervened in Pebble Limited Partnership’s case to show the widespread support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act determination in this specific case for this specific project – protections grounded in research, science, and the law. The Court must uphold the EPA’s Final Determination and reject Pebble’s case.

“Preserving Bristol Bay and its pristine watershed is not just an environmental issue, it’s also an economic issue. The commercial fishing industry in the region supports thousands of jobs and generates over $2 billion in revenue each year. This economic driver was threatened until the Environmental Protection Agency stepped in and stopped Pebble Limited Partnership from developing its toxic mining project,” said Michael Link, President/CEO, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. “Unsurprisingly, Pebble refuses to take no for an answer and is back in Court grasping at straws, trying to challenge the EPA’s Clean Water Act Final Determination. We found it critical to intervene in this case to protect Bristol Bay and all that it supports from destruction. While we are confident that the Court will dismiss this frivolous case, it shows yet again how urgent it is for our elected officials to pass legislation to protect Bristol Bay forever.” 

Additional Information: 

The EPA’s Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay span two decades of research, scientific studies, and public engagement processes, making the Pebble Mine proposal the most studied mining proposal in American history. This decision also reflects the will of the overwhelming majority of Bristol Bay residents and Alaskans. 

Bristol Bay and its salmon sustain the cultural and spiritual identity of the Tribes and people of the region, provide more than 50 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon, support an economy valued at over $2.2 billion, and employ tens of thousands of people in commercial fishing, hunting and sportfishing, outdoor recreation, and tourism.

The State of Alaska filed a challenge to EPA’s Final Determination after Pebble filed, and that case is now before the same Court as the Pebble challenge. The Bristol Bay groups currently are assessing the best way forward to help defend the Final Determination from that challenge as well.

UPDATE: Here’s a statement from Trout Unlimited Alaska:

Trout Unlimited intervenes in lawsuit to uphold Clean Water Act in Bristol Bay  

Lawsuit filed by Pebble Partnership threatens safeguards for the headwaters of Bristol Bay 

ANCHORAGE, AK – Trout Unlimited, represented pro bono by Sheppard Mullin, intervened in a lawsuit filed by Pebble Partnership against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking to overturn the Clean Water Act 404(c) safeguards for the Bristol Bay headwaters.  

“As Trout Unlimited reenters the courtroom, it brings a legacy of legal triumphs and a commitment to safeguarding Bristol Bay’s natural resources for future generations,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “We will not sit idly by while Pebble Partnership fights to destroy a large swath of the world’s most important salmon fishery. Our previous lawsuit was instrumental in getting Clean Water Act safeguards back on track and that same legal team is ready to take on this frivolous lawsuit.”  

“This lawsuit is another chapter in the Pebble Partnership’s ongoing efforts to circumvent science, the will of Alaskans, and common sense,” said Nelli Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited. “The proposed Pebble mine is a bad idea today, just as it was decades ago when we started this fight. We will continue to stand with the people and businesses of Bristol Bay who depend on the region’s abundant fisheries and world-renowned recreation opportunities.  The lengths to which Pebble is dragging this out and uncertainty a lawsuit can cause are all the more reason we need permanent safeguards for the watershed.” 

Trout Unlimited’s intervention in this lawsuit builds on the organization’s history of strategic litigation to protect the region. In 2019, TU successfully challenged the EPA’s withdrawal of the EPA’s 404(c) proposed determination, making it possible for the EPA to finalize protections in January 2023 that are being challenged here. Additionally, TU submitted a “friend of the court” brief in response to the State of Alaska’s effort to overturn the EPA’s 404(c) final determination filed by the State of Alaska in U.S. Supreme Court, which the Court ultimately rejected.  


Trout Unlimited, the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization, is dedicated to caring for and recovering America’s rivers and streams, so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Across the country, TU brings to bear river restoration expertise, local, regional, and national grassroots organizing, durable partnerships, science-backed policy muscle, and legal firepower on behalf of trout and salmon fisheries, healthy waters and vibrant communities. In Alaska, we work with sportsmen and women to ensure the state’s trout and salmon resources remain healthy far into the future through our local chapters and staff across the state.  

Some conservation groups, including Earthworks and the Natural Resources Defense Council, also weighed in:

Conservation Groups Defend EPA Decision on Proposed Pebble Mine

Earthjustice, NRDC Join Trustees for Alaska on Behalf of 15 Groups to Defend Bristol Bay From Proposed Pebble Mine

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— A coalition of conservation organizations filed a motion today to intervene in a lawsuit to defend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision that protects Bristol Bay from harmful mines, like the proposed Pebble Mine, under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.

The EPA’s decision in January 2023 blocking discharges related to the proposed copper and gold mine was a hard-won victory for Bristol Bay Tribes, commercial and sport fishers, conservation groups, Alaskans and many others who have been fighting for more than 20 years to prevent the mine from being built in southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, home to the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.

Despite continued strong opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine within the Bristol Bay region, across Alaska and nationally, the mine’s developers — Pebble Limited Partnership and its parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. — filed a lawsuit in March to try to overturn the EPA’s veto. The state of Alaska separately filed a lawsuit challenging the agency’s decision in April.

In a highly unusual and aggressive move, the state of Alaska first tried to leapfrog the lower courts by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the EPA’s decision. After the Supreme Court denied that request in January, the state filed its lawsuit in federal district court in Alaska, joining with the mine’s developers against the wishes of most Alaskans who oppose the mine.

Pebble Limited Partnership and the state of Alaska also filed separate claims in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., demanding compensation in excess of $700 billion because of the EPA’s decision.

The coalition of 15 conservation groups, represented by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Earthjustice and Trustees for Alaska, joins the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Native Corporation and other Bristol Bay groups, businesses and commercial fishermen who also filed today to intervene in support of the EPA’s action.

Trout Unlimited, representing itself, also filed a motion to intervene, making it the third party to seek intervention against the mine developers’ renewed attempt to overturn the decision.

In a separate but related effort to make Bristol Bay protections more durable, U.S. Representative Mary Peltola from Alaska earlier this month introduced federal legislation, the Bristol Bay Protection Act. If that legislation were to pass, it would prevent the mine from being built without a further act of Congress.

Below are statements from NRDC, Earthjustice, and the three conservation organizations that Earthjustice represents: Earthworks, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biological Diversity:

“EPA’s decision to prohibit the destructive Pebble Mine is consistent with the Clean Water Act, supported by exhaustive administrative and scientific review, and overwhelmingly endorsed by millions of Americans, including over 80% of the people of Bristol Bay,” said Joel Reynolds, Western director and senior attorney at NRDC. “This destructive project has always been the wrong mine in the wrong place, and EPA has definitively confirmed it. For a decade and a half, NRDC urged the agency to do just that, and we look forward now to defending the veto in federal court.”

“Northern Dynasty is tilting at windmills trying to resurrect this disastrous mine,” said Bonnie Gestring, Northwest program director at Earthworks. “We are proud to join in support of Bristol Bay Tribes and commercial fishermen to defend the EPA’s decision to protect the thriving Bristol Bay salmon fishery that fuels the economy and feeds the nation.”

“The EPA rightly decided that the devastating risks Pebble Mine poses to Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed are far too great,” said Cooper Freeman, Alaska director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Pebble Mine proponents have tried for two decades to justify destroying the earth’s greatest sockeye salmon run, which is also a haven for brown bears and other wildlife, and it has failed miserably. We’ll defend the Bristol Bay ecosystem for as long as we have to, and I’m looking forward to putting the terrible idea of mining in this precious watershed behind us once and for all.”

“Friends of the Earth is proud to fight alongside our environmental, fishing, and Indigenous allies at every stage to ensure that Pebble Mine remains a distant memory,” said Hallie Templeton, legal director for Friends of the Earth. “EPA’s denial of a Clean Water Act permit for this environmentally disastrous project was nothing short of legally sound. We will do everything we can to help defend this decision amid Northern Dynasty’s baseless lawsuit.”

“Earthjustice is honored to stand with Tribes and other regional Bristol Bay leaders and to work with NRDC, Trustees for Alaska and the conservation groups we represent as we continue to defend this critical watershed and the people, fish and wildlife it supports,” said Earthjustice Senior Attorney Erin Colón. “The mine’s developers and the state are wasting time and the public’s money by trying to resurrect a failed project that should have never been proposed in the first place, but we’ll keep fighting until Bristol Bay is permanently protected.”

NRDC represents itself while Earthjustice represents three conservation groups — Earthworks, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biological Diversity — in today’s intervention, filed jointly with Trustees for Alaska who represent another 12 groups: SalmonState, The Alaska Center, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Alaska Wilderness League, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Cook Inletkeeper, Friends of McNeil River, Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and Wild Salmon Center.

For additional quotes from the Bristol Bay region or to be connected with the Bristol Bay Defense Fund coalition, please contact Sam Snyder at, (907) 903-5811.