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
Popular
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, seen here speaking to the press about the Flint water crisis in 2016, will be the highest ranking official to stand trial over the public health disaster. Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

Judge Orders Michigan Health Director to Face Trial Over Flint Water Crisis Deaths

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon will be the highest ranking official to go to trial so far as a result of an investigation into the Flint water crisis, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Judge David Goggins ruled Monday there was probable cause for Lyon to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Robert Skidmore and John Snyder that prosecutors say were due to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that Lyon was aware of a year before he alerted Michigan's governor, Michigan Live reported. Lyons is also charged with misconduct in office.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Coal-fired power plant near Becker, Minnesota. Tony Webster / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump's 'Dirty Power Plan' Could Cost More Than 1,000 Lives a Year

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled on Tuesday its long-anticipated replacement of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. The new coal pollution rules will increase planet-warming carbon pollution and could cost more than a thousand American lives each year, according to the EPA's own estimates.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the "Affordable Clean Energy Rule" today under President Trump's directive. The new plan encourages efficiency improvements at existing coal plants to ensure they operate longer and allows states to weaken, or even eliminate, coal emissions standards. That's a clear difference from former President Obama's plan, which was aimed at phasing out coal and transitioning to cleaner power sources to avoid dangerous climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Two workers in protective gear scrape asbestos tile and mastic from a facility at Naval Base Point Loma in California. NAVFAC / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Why Asbestos Is Still a Major Public Health Threat in the U.S.

Reports surfaced this month that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had proposed a significant new use rule (SNUR) for asbestos in June, requiring anyone who wanted to start or resume importing or manufacturing the carcinogenic mineral to first receive EPA approval.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Rklfoto / Getty Images

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Wants to End EPA’s Cruel Animal Testing

By Justin Goodman and Nathan Herschler

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress recently pressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its "questionable" and "dubious" animal tests. The lawmakers' demand for information on "horrific and inhumane" animal testing at the EPA comes on the heels of a recent Johns Hopkins University study that found that high-tech computer models are more effective than animal tests.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Wikimedia Commons

Strongest, Oldest Arctic Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record

The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and now the region's thickest and oldest sea ice—also known as "the last ice area"—is breaking up for the first time on record, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

The breakage has opened up waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen-solid even in the peak of summer.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Climate Justice Edmonton

These Giant Portraits Will Stand in the Path of Trans Mountain Pipeline

By Andrea Germanos

To put forth a "hopeful vision for the future" that includes bold climate action, a new installation project is to be erected along the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion route to harnesses art's ability to be a force for social change and highlight the fossil fuel project's increased threats to indigenous rights and a safe climate.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
A worker inspects recycled plastic in a plastics factory. Getty Images

The Plastic Waste Crisis Is an Opportunity to Get Serious About Recycling

By Kate O'Neill

A global plastic waste crisis is building, with major implications for health and the environment. Under its so-called "National Sword" policy, China has sharply reduced imports of foreign scrap materials. As a result, piles of plastic waste are building up in ports and recycling facilities across the U.S.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Aaron Teasdale

The One Thing Better Than Summer Skiing

By Aaron Teasdale

"There's snow up here, I promise," I assure my son Jonah, as we grunt up a south-facing mountainside in Glacier National Park in July. A mountain goat cocks its head as if to say, "What kind of crazy people hike up bare mountains in ski boots?" He's not the only one to wonder what in the name of Bode Miller we're doing up here with ski gear.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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