Bristol Bay Tribal Groups File Amicus Brief In Opposition Of State’s SCOTUS Suit

The following press release is courtesy of United Tribes of Bristol Bay and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation:

Bristol Bay Tribes & Native Corporation File Amicus Brief Opposing Governor Dunleavy’s Pebble Mine SCOTUS Lawsuit 

(Dillingham, Alaska) — Today, the Bristol Bay region – represented by the United Tribes of Bristol Bay and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation – filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States to counter Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy’s lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its Clean Water Act veto of the Pebble Mine. 

“Governor Dunleavy is completely out of touch with the people he claims to represent with this outrageous lawsuit. Time and time again, the vast majority of Alaskans have called on our elected leaders to stop the proposed Pebble Mine, but Governor Dunleavy is clearly on a reckless mission to defend this dead project regardless of the law, science, and cost to Alaskans,” said Alannah Hurley, Executive Director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “Alaska is in a financial crisis and funding for schools, housing, and communities is being slashed while Governor Dunleavy is using limited state resources to pursue an expensive and extremist lawsuit on behalf of a foreign mining company. Fifteen sovereign Tribes in Bristol Bay are asking the Supreme Court to uphold decades of sound science and legal precedent by upholding the EPA’s Clean Water Act 404(c) final determination.”

Governor Dunleavy’s lawsuit was filed with the Supreme Court in July in an attempt to undo the EPA’s 404(c) Clean Water Act veto of the Pebble Mine. Earlier this year, the EPA issued 404(c) Clean Water Act protections, which effectively prohibited the development of the Pebble Mine project due to the adverse risks it would have on Bristol Bay’s watershed and the surrounding ecosystem. Bristol Bay and its salmon sustain the cultural and spiritual identity of the tribes in the area, 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. Recent polling finds strong concern among Alaskan voters for protecting all of Bristol Bay from large-scale mining and strong support for efforts to protect the watershed from large-scale mining permanently. 

“EPA finalized Clean Water Act protections in Bristol Bay with the strong support of the people of our region and across Alaska,” said Russell Nelson, Chair of Bristol Bay Native Corporation  Board of Directors. “More importantly, EPA’s work in Bristol Bay is grounded in solid science and an important regulatory obligation to protect the invaluable salmon resource that has sustained our people since time immemorial. It is extremely disappointing that the State of Alaska is seeking to prop up a mine proposal that science and federal administrations of both parties have roundly rejected. As we have for well over a decade, BBNC and our shareholders will never back down from the fight for our water, our fish, our economy, and our way of life.”

The measure taken by EPA to stop Pebble Mine is grounded in years of precedent and is a very rarely-used tool that has been used by Republican and Democratic presidents alike over the fifty-year history of the Clean Water Act. Support for protecting Bristol Bay spans coast to coast. Last year, more than half a million people – including 30,000 Alaskans and 2,500 Bristol Bay residents – spoke out urging the EPA to reject the Pebble Mine. Over the last decade, and seven federal comment periods, Bristol Bay residents, Tribal members, commercial fishermen, sportfishermen, conservation advocates, chefs, investors, businesses, faith-based groups, and more have raised their voices nearly 4 million times to urge the EPA to protect Bristol Bay from the threat of Pebble Mine. 

The Supreme Court will likely decide whether or not to hear this case by the end of the year. 

Here’s a link to the full brief: and a sneak preview :


I. This Court’s original jurisdiction over suits by States against the United States is not exclusive. For more than a century, States have brought cases against the United States in the forums Congress des- ignated when it waived the United States’ immunity from suit. This Court long has deferred to Congress’s forum designations, requiring States to litigate their cases against the United States in those forums, rather than directly in this Court.

Alaska is no exception; it previously has sued the United States and its agencies in the courts Congress specified. Congress made federal district court the initial arbiter of Alaska’s federal APA challenges and vested the Court of Federal Claims with jurisdiction over Alaska’s takings and breach-of-contract claims. Alaska has pursued similar claims in those courts, with appellate review in this Court.

The usual justifications for this Court’s exercise of original jurisdiction are absent here. The forums Congress designated have jurisdiction to adjudicate Alaska’s claims and can afford full relief. This case is unlike prior original actions between States and the United States because it is not a title dispute; it is a challenge to a federal agency’s exercise of regulatory power. Hearing this case now would disrupt the orderly course of litigation in the forums Congress designated to decide Alaska’s claims.