New EPA Alaska Region Head Talks Pebble Mine

Chris Hladick. Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development

Pebble Mine opponents recently won a round when the Enviornmental Protection Agency backtracked from a previous decision that opened a door for the project to proceed. But realistically, the conflict is far from over and both sides will continue to throw punches. But the EPA’s decision to hold off on giving the green light was clearly a triumph for those hoping to protect Bristol’s salmon.

KTOO Alaska Public Media was able to catch up the EPA’s recently appointed Region 10 (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho) lead administrator Chris Hladick. He knows the state well, having spent time in Governor Bill Walker’s cabinet among other Alaska ventures.

Here are a few snippets from the interview, which for obvious reasons focused on the Pebble Mine topic:

“I bring to the table local knowledge of how things can actually work on the ground here in Alaska,” Hladick said.

Hladick said his boss — EPA administrator Scott Pruitt — recently called him up seeking some of that local knowledge, on a hot topic for many Alaskans: the proposed Pebble Mine.

“He was interested in knowing how many people the commercial fishing out there employs, as opposed to what the mine will employ. I think he went through a process in his mind of weighing all the issues together,” Hladick said.

Shortly after that conversation, Pruitt made news: he decided to keep in play EPA’s proposal to put environmental restrictions on the mine, a move that surprised and thrilled Pebble’s opponents.

Hladick declined to speculate how Pruitt came to the decision.

“I think you’d have to ask him that,” Hladick said.

Hladick said despite Pruitt’s decision, EPA is keeping busy with Pebble. The company still aims to get its permits, so EPA is working with the Army Corps of Engineers as it prepares an environmental impact statement for the mine.

There are lots of interesting quotes in the piece, especially this one regarding climate change:

“I’ve been involved in Arctic issues since at least 16 years ago, and there’s no doubt the Arctic is changing,” Hladick said.