Pebble Mine opponents rally while EPA hands mine a victory
Pebble Mine opponents had a special delivery for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday.
Pebbles — 14,000 of them.
They represent what opponents say are 14,000 commercial fishing jobs at stake if the large gold and copper project advances through state and federal permitting.
About 50 people also rallied in front of the L Street building in Anchorage where Murkowski and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan have offices.
They held signs saying:
• “Not this mine, not this place”
• “Save Bristol Bay”
• “Let Our Wild Salmon Run Free.”
“There are so many levels of what’s a stake,” commercial fisherman Erica Madison, who arrived from King Salmon, said during the rally. “The number one thing is the salmon and I think that that’s like the building block for everything else that is Bristol Bay."
The rally comes as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a draft environmental impact study out for public comment. Next Monday is the last day for public feedback.
“The statute required 45 days, and so there's much more than the statute requires,” said the Pebble Partnership's chief executive Tom Collier. “We did a look at about a dozen of the most recent major EIS comment periods and we're right in the middle of that, so this isn't much longer or much shorter, or anything else. It's right in the sweet spot."
Separately, the Environmental Protection Agency late Wednesday announced plans to reconsider a 2014 decision that essentially put the brakes on the project.
The Obama-era restrictions were deemed preemptive and prejudicial. Two years ago, the EPA agreed to begin a process that would remove those restrictions, but last year decided to further research the impacts on the fisheries.
“I have never supported preemptive restrictions for any project in Alaska,” Murkowski said in a prepared statement. “It is inappropriate for an agency to prejudge a project years before its developer has filed a permit application. Allowing agencies to expand their authority in this manner would be a dangerous precedent that undermines confidence in the normal, well-established permitting process.”
Alannah Hurley, of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, called the EPA's decision a "direct assault on the years of work Bristol Bay’s Tribes have undertaken to protect our watershed."
"Today's announcement came with no prior notice, and in fact comes less than two weeks after EPA’s general counsel met with community leaders in Dillingham and stated he had no intention of changing the status quo at that time," she said.
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