Thursday, 21 February, 2019

EPA goes back to protect important salmon fishery

Pablo Martinez Monsivais  Associated Press  FIle		Scott Pruitt EPA administrator Pablo Martinez Monsivais Associated Press FIle Scott Pruitt EPA administrator
Sherri Watson | 30 January, 2018, 19:23

CNN reports the EPA is withdrawing its proposal to "reverse clean water safeguards" for the Bristol Bay region, which was meant to make room for a gold and copper mine to be built by Pebble Limited Partnership. The agency soon after moved to consider undoing Obama-era proposed development limits.

Bristol Bay's fishery is the source of nearly half of the world's wild sockeye salmon, according to the EPA. If finalized, the protections would place restrictions on the use of waters in the Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska for the disposal of dredged land or mineral deposits created by mining - essentially limiting the size of any potential mining project in the area.

Last year, the EPA began reconsidering restrictions that were first proposed in 2014, based on its * a href="*%5B%27%22%5D (?%3Curl%3E%5B%5E%7B%27%22%5D.+?)%5B%27%22%5D)&href_id_source=vr2-href-id-source-9" *Bristol Bay watershed assessment.

"Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection", Pruitt said. "Today's action allows the EPA to get the information needed to determine what specific impacts the proposed mining project will have on those critical resources".

Last year, the EPA and Pebble Limited Partnership reached a settlement agreement that allowed the mining company to apply for a permit.

Last year, the EPA started a process to reverse the decision, and Pebble submitted its first permit application to build the mine last month.

When the Obama restrictions were announced in 2014 Pebble sued the EPA over the unusual nature of the preemption, made before permit applications were filed, and the internal process within the agency stopped.

Opponents of the Pebble mine project took Friday afternoon to celebrate a small but unexpected victory via Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Alaska Governor Bill Walker, an independent, applauded the decision and thanked Pruitt "for listening to my input and that of thousands of Alaskans" who oppose the mine. Northern Dynasty's principal asset, owned through its wholly-owned Alaska-based United States subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership and other wholly-owned subsidiaries, is a 100% interest in a contiguous block of 2,402 mineral claims in southwest Alaska, including the Pebble deposit. The project proponents continue to enjoy the protection of due process and the right to proceed.

"The (Corps of Engineers) has determined we have a complete application and has initiated a thorough, objective review of the Pebble project", Collier said. "This in no way impairs or jeopardizes the (permit) process", he said in an interview late on Saturday. The mine, which is to be located in Alaska's Bristol Bay area, will unearth 1.2 billion tons of material - mostly gold and copper.

The company expressed confidence in its ability to construct and operate a mine that meets required environmental standards. They said the EPA's proposed limits were created following years of scientific analysis and public comment, and that a mine straddling salmon-producing headwaters of Bristol Bay would likely harm fish and drinking water. However, the permit application must exceed a high level, because EPA believes that the risk to Bristol Bay may be unacceptable.