The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] announced [press release] Friday that it will maintain restrictions on the proposed Pebble Limited Partnership mining project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, reversing its prior decision.
In 2014, the EPA issued a Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Proposed Determination [PDF, text] that planned to restrict the discharge of dredged or fill material in the Bristol Bay watershed related to mining the Pebble copper and gold deposit. However, in May 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt [official profile], in an attempt to resolve outstanding lawsuits, agreed to initiate a process to propose to withdraw the Proposed Determination by July 2017.
After soliciting public comment [EPA notice document] over the Proposed Determination, the EPA stated, “after hearing directly from stakeholders and the people of Alaska, EPA is suspending its process to withdraw those proposed restrictions, leaving them in place while the Agency receives more information on the potential mine’s impact on the region’s world-class fisheries and natural resources.”
Pruitt says that any mining projects in that region “likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there.” By halting its prior decision to allow mining in Bristol Bay, Pruitt continues, “until we know the full extend of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection.”
Friday’s action allows EPA to get the information needed to determine what specific impacts the proposed mining project will have on those critical resources.
EPA intends to solicit additional public comment on the impact of the mining application on the existing proposed determination to better inform that analysis.