From left, Bristol Bay Reserve Association Board member Mike LaRussa, Bristol Bay Native Association President/CEO Ralph Andersen, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association Executive Director Andy Wink, United Tribes of Bristol Bay Deputy Director Lindsay Layland, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Norm Van Vactor, and Robin Samuelson of Bristol Bay Native Corporation, make statements at the Federal Courthouse in Anchorage, Alaska Tuesday Oct. 8, 2019. Critics of the Pebble Mine planned near headwaters of a major Alaska salmon fishery are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying EPA improperly withdrew proposed restrictions on development in that region. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP)

From left, Bristol Bay Reserve Association Board member Mike LaRussa, Bristol Bay Native Association President/CEO Ralph Andersen, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association Executive Director Andy Wink, United Tribes of Bristol Bay Deputy Director Lindsay Layland, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Norm Van Vactor, and Robin Samuelson of Bristol Bay Native Corporation, make statements at the Federal Courthouse in Anchorage, Alaska Tuesday Oct. 8, 2019. Critics of the Pebble Mine planned near headwaters of a major Alaska salmon fishery are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying EPA improperly withdrew proposed restrictions on development in that region. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP)

EPA sued over mine restrictions

The lawsuit alleges EPA has failed to provide a “reasoned explanation” for its change in position.

  • By Becky Bohrer Associated Press
  • Tuesday, October 8, 2019 10:52pm
  • News

JUNEAU — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency improperly withdrew proposed restrictions on mining activity in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by critics of the proposed Pebble Mine.

The lawsuit is the latest development in the ongoing fight over plans to develop a copper and gold deposit in southwest Alaska.

Opponents of the Pebble Mine worry about the impact it could have on the region known for its salmon habitat, including a prominent sockeye salmon fishery.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, which wants to develop the mine, is seeking approval of a key permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A spokeswoman in the EPA’s regional office said by email that the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Under the Obama administration, EPA proposed restrictions on development in the Bristol Bay region but never finalized them. The agency looked at three mine scenarios, two of which it said were based on statements made by Northern Dynasty Minerals, the project’s owner.

EPA, at the time, said it had reason to believe that mining of the deposit at any of the sizes it analyzed could result in “significant and unacceptable adverse effects” on streams, wetlands, lakes and ponds and the fisheries they support.

The proposal called for restricting discharge of dredged or fill material into waters that would cause loss of certain amounts of streams or wetlands or streamflow alterations.

A 2017 settlement agreement between EPA and the Pebble partnership called for EPA to initiate a process for withdrawing the proposed restrictions.

But that effort was halted last year, with the EPA saying it had serious concerns about the impacts of mining in the region and wanted more information.

Earlier this year, a memo released by the EPA from its general counsel called for its regional administrator to resume consideration of whether to withdraw the proposed restrictions.

The memo was released shortly before the EPA in July submitted comments on the corps’ draft environmental review, which the regional administrator said likely underestimated impacts the project could have on fish and other resources.

The agency, later that month, announced it was withdrawing the proposed restrictions, saying they were based on hypothetical mine scenarios and outdated now that a mine plan has been submitted. The EPA has said it plans to work with the corps to address its concerns.

The lawsuit alleges EPA has failed to provide a “reasoned explanation” for its change in position.

Mike Heatwole, a spokesman for Pebble, said by email that the Pebble partnership thinks the lawsuit is without merit, “as the EPA acted appropriately.” Pebble partnership CEO Tom Collier has said the proposed restrictions were an overreach.

Plaintiffs in the case are Bristol Bay Native Association, United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, Bristol Bay Reserve Association and Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.


• By Becky Bohrer, Associated Press


More in News

A studded tire is attached to a very cool car in the parking lot of the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Studded tire removal deadline extended

A 15-day extension was issued via emergency order for communities above the 60 degrees latitude line

A sign for Peninsula Community Health Services stands outside their facility in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
PCHS to pursue Nikiski expansion, moves to meet other community needs

PCHS is a private, nonprofit organization that provides access to health care to anyone in the community

Jordan Chilson votes in favor of an ordinance he sponsored seeking equitable access to baby changing tables during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna OKs ordinance seeking to increase access to baby changing tables

The ordinance requires all newly constructed or renovated city-owned and operated facilities to include changing tables installed in both men’s and women’s restrooms

Joel Caldwell shows off the new Tecnam Traveller on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Aviation has since added two more Tecnam Travellers to its fleet. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Aviation adds 3rd plane to commuter service, readies for busy summer schedule

Kenai Aviation plans to increase its schedule to include 18 flights a day running seven days a week

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Kelley Cizek, right, speaks as Jason Tauriainen, Patti Truesdell and Penny Vadla listen during a special meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s school board in Soldotna on Monday.
‘They deserve better than this’

School board passes budget with broad swath of cuts, including pools, theaters and some support staff

The Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 1, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska House passes budget with roughly $2,275 payments to residents, bill goes to Senate

The bill also includes a roughly $175 million, one-time increase in aid to school districts that would be paid according to a funding formula

The Kenai River flows near Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. The Riverfront Redevelopment project will impact much of Soldotna’s riverside areas downstream to the bridge. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna riverfront redevelopment planning moves forward

Soldotna City Council on Monday unanimously approved the creation of a project manager to shepherd the Riverfront Redevelopment Project

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Corey Cannon, who plays baseball as part of Soldotna Little League, speaks to the Soldotna City Council during their meeting in Soldotna on Wednesday.
Soldotna Little League receives donation for facility repairs

The city owns the fields, but the Little League leases the land and is responsible for the maintenance of the facilities

Aleutian Airways logo. Photo courtesy of Aleutian Airways
Aleutian airways to halt Homer service during runway project

Service will be suspended beginning April 15

Most Read