Quantcast
Videos

The Pebble Mine Is Too Toxic Even for the Trump Administration

In a stunning reversal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it is suspending its effort to reverse an Obama-era plan to restrict mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska based on a controversial mine project's risks to the region's important salmon fisheries and natural resources.

The unexpected move from President Trump's pro-business administration was a blow to Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of Canadian mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals. The mine developer is proposing to extract one of the world's largest copper and gold deposits from the pristine watershed. Shares fell as much as 26 percent on Monday following the EPA's surprise decision.


The Obama EPA in 2014 proposed to block the project under the Clean Water Act but the plan was never finalized after a federal court put a hold on the process.

Last year, the EPA started a process to reverse the decision, and Pebble submitted its first permit application to build the mine last month. But the EPA received more than one million comments from interested stakeholders, most that were fiercely opposed to withdrawing the earlier proposed protections. More than 65 percent of Alaskans, 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents and Native communities, and 85 percent of commercial fishermen oppose the mine.

Joel Reynolds, the western director and senior attorney the Natural Resources Defense Council noted, "The Bristol Bay fishery is the economic and cultural heart and soul of the region, producing last summer alone some 60 million wild salmon. Every year it generates an estimated $1.5 billion in revenue, supporting some 14,000 jobs in a region that depends on that economic engine for its very survival. According to EPA's own comprehensive assessment of risk, the Pebble Mine's impact on the region could be 'catastrophic.'"

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said Friday, "We have restored process, reviewed comments, and heard from a variety of stakeholders on whether to withdraw the proposed restrictions in the Bristol Bay watershed."

"Based on that review, it is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there. Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection."

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker thanked the EPA and the Trump administration for "listening to my input, as well as the input of thousands of Alaskans who oppose rescinding the EPA's Bristol Bay assessment."

Mine opponents cheered the decision. NPR reported:

"Alannah Hurley with United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a group opposing the mine, has said members of the tribes she represents are willing to lie down in front of bulldozers to protect the waters. She called the EPA's move huge. 'These proposed protections, the fact that the Trump administration is choosing to keep them on the shelf, is a recognition ... that the Pebble Mine is too toxic, even for the Trump administration,' she said.

"Hurley spoke by phone from the commercial fishing hub of Dillingham, the seat of resistance to Pebble Mine, where she said activists were jubilant about the EPA's announcement. 'The people of Bristol Bay are really celebrating the fact that the protections that we have fought so long and hard for are not being withdrawn by the EPA and instead could potentially later be finalized,' Hurley said."

But the EPA indicated the project could one day be approved, as the decision "neither deters nor derails the application process of Pebble Limited Partnership's proposed project. The project proponents continue to enjoy the protection of due process and the right to proceed. However, their permit application must clear a high bar, because EPA believes the risk to Bristol Bay may be unacceptable."

"We expect the permitting process for Pebble to advance expeditiously over the next few years, and that a draft and final (Environmental Impact Statement) will be completed upon which final permitting decisions for the Pebble Project will be made," Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen told Reuters.

The EPA plans to solicit additional public comment on the impact of the mining application.

Hurley added to NPR, "Ideally we would like these [protections] finalized, and the battle to protect Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine and mines like Pebble is far from over. But the fact that these protections remain in place and can be used within the process is a very positive step in the effort to protect the Bristol Bay watershed for generations to come."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Adventure
Muir Woods, which costs $10 for entry, will have free entry on Sept. 22. m01229 / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Visit Any National Park for Free This Saturday to Celebrate 25th National Public Lands Day

If you're stuck for plans this weekend, we suggest escaping your city or town for the great outdoors.

This Saturday marks the 25th National Public Lands Day, organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
A glacier flows towards East Antarctica. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / CC BY 2.0

Temperatures Possible This Century Could Melt Parts of East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Raise Sea Levels 10+ Feet

A section of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that contains three to four meters (approximately 10 to 13 feet) of potential sea level rise could melt if temperatures rise to just two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a study published in Nature Wednesday found.

Researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Queensland, and other institutions in New Zealand, Japan and Spain looked at marine sediments to assess the behavior of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin during warmer periods of the Pleistocene and found evidence of melting when temperatures in Antarctica were at least two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for periods of 2,500 years or more.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Oil well in North Dakota. Tim Evanson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pipeline Leaks 63,840 Gallons of Produced Water in North Dakota

A pipeline released 63,840 gallons (1,520 barrels) of produced water that contaminated rangeland in Dunn County, North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune reported, citing officials with the North Dakota Department of Health.

Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas extraction, and can contain drilling chemicals if fracking was used.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights
Residents stand in a long queue to fill water containers on May 27 in Shimla, India. Deepak Sansta / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

World Peace Requires Access to Safe Water

International Peace Day is Sept. 21. Mekela Panditharatne, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, submitted the following op-ed to EcoWatch in commemoration.

In drought-ravaged East Africa, the cracks in the plains echo the fault lines splitting tribes.

Across the globe, the devastation of deadly brawls is being exacerbated by tensions over access to water. Water crises, often worsened by governance failures, can portend warning signs for instability and conflict. This year, the World Resources Institute cautioned that water stress is growing globally, "with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040." The effects of such water stress span the gamut from civil unrest to open warfare.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food

How Your Personality Type Could Influence Your Food Choices

By Melissa Kravitz

"You are what you eat" may be one of the oldest sayings ever to be repeated around the dinner table, but can you also eat what you are?

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
A child rides his bicycle in an area affected by the Hurricane Maria passing in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on Oct. 5, 2017. RICARDO ARDUENGO / AFP / Getty Images

Hurricane Maria's Legacy: One Year Later

As Puerto Rico marked one year since Hurricane Maria made landfall yesterday, the Miami Herald this week ran extensive reports in English and Spanish on the island's continuing recovery.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Science
A foldable, biodegradable battery based on paper and bacteria. Seokheun Choi / Binghamton University, CC BY-ND

Could Paper Power the Next Generation of Devices?

By Seokheun Choi

It seems like every few months there's a new cellphone, laptop or tablet that is so exciting people line up around the block to get their hands on it. While the perpetual introduction of new, slightly more advanced electronics has made businesses like Apple hugely successful, the short shelf life of these electronics is bad for the environment.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Blue Point Brewing Company

Long Island Brewer Launches 'Good Reef Ale' to Help Restore New York’s Oyster Reefs

Between the 1600s and the early 20th century, European settlers in New York City ate their way through 220,000 acres of oyster reefs covering 350 square miles, The Washington Post reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!