18 March 2013
A "Citizens' Alternative" has been submitted as part of official public comment regarding revisions to the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan that the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has up for public review until April 4, 2013.
Tribal councils of Curyung, Ekwok, Koliganek, Levelock, New Stuyahok and Nondalton, along with the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association and Trout Unlimited drafted the Citizens' Alternative because they didn't feel the land management revisions DNR proposed in its recent revisions went far enough to restore protections for fish and wildlife habitat and subsistence and recreational uses in the Bristol Bay region. Those same groups had filed suit against the state in 2009 regarding the loss of habitat land classification in the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan. In a settlement of the case, DNR agreed to review the plan and followed up with draft revisions to it in January 2013.
15 March 2013
In its January newsletter, Pebble Watch reported on legislative happenings and events related to the development of the proposed Pebble mine. Here are updates to those issues:
Keystone science panels
The Keystone Center is still finalizing plans for its next set of science panels on vegetation, wetlands, wildlife and endangered species. Originally planned for late April in Dillingham, the panels will likely now be held in Anchorage due to travel restrictions for government personnel. Pebble Watch will give updates as details are finalized.
05 March 2013
The Alaska State House passed HB 77 yesterday, moving forward a bill introduced in January by Gov. Sean Parnell that he says will streamline permitting in the state. A similar bill, SB 26, is being considered by the state Senate.
04 March 2013
The public has until April 4, 2013, to submit comments on recent draft revisions to the Bristol Bay Area Plan. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released the Public Review Draft of the Determination of Reclassification and Plan Amendment to the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan (2005 BBAP) in January. Once adopted, the plan and its revisions will serve as the basis for the management of state lands and waters within the planning area for the next 20 years.
Written comments must be received on or before April 4, 2013, by mail, email, fax or through the DNR website.
28 February 2013
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been taken to task in Washington, D.C., during the last several months by U.S. senators who are critical of the agency's decision to conduct a watershed assessment of Bristol Bay. Most recently, Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss), of the Environment and Public Works Committee, called for EPA to retract its draft watershed assessment and rely on the permitting process to determine if large-scale mining is acceptable in Bristol Bay.
According to an article by E & E News of Washington, D.C., Alaska Sen. Mark Begich has spoken in favor of the EPA being able to finalize the assessment, which the agency has said it will do by fall of this year. "I think EPA has to finish out their process, and we'll see where it lies from there," Begich is quoted as saying. "They started it. We should let the process finish, and then we'll see where the information lies."
28 February 2013
"We wanted to present a more engaging and conversational site to help communicate about Pebble," said Mike Heatwole, vice president, public affairs. "This is a complex project and our goal is to help interested stakeholders understand as much as possible about it. The web site is one way we hope to accomplish it."
The site, still found at www.pebblepartnership.com, features colorful photos, a conversational tone, and prominently highlighted quotes in a blog-like format. Topics include the importance of copper and other metals in the development of civilization, state and national economics, the mine plan, permitting and more.
Readers who want more detail than what's available at this site can still access www.pebblescience.org, which links to PLP's Environmental Baseline Studies.
22 February 2013
Bills introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell last month designed to streamline permitting are moving quickly through the legislative process, as detailed in an article that appeared yesterday in the Alaska Journal of Commerce.
Pebble Watch recently reported on Senate bills 26 and 27, and House bills 77 and 78, as they have potential to impact permitting and development on the proposed Pebble mine.
Status: Senate bills 26 and 27 are on the agenda for discussion by the Senate Finance Committee, Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 9 a.m. House bills 77 and 78 have been referred to the House Rules Committee.
Proceedings and testimony from recent committee meetings regarding the bills:
06 February 2013
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been revising its draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment and plans to release it for public and peer review sometime this spring. EPA had previously stated that the revision would be reviewed by scientists, but is responding to public interest by opening up another public input period for the document. The first public comment period, held during May through July 2012, garnered more than 230,000 comments.
EPA conducted the watershed assessment "to determine the significance of Bristol Bay’s ecological resources and evaluate the potential impacts of large-scale mining on these resources." EPA has authority under the Clean Water Act to invoke a 404(c) ruling that could curtail or limit development in the area, which is one reason for the intense public, industry and environmental interest in the document.
31 January 2013
Members of the state of Alaska Resource committees for the House and the Senate will review bills introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell that he says are designed to streamline and give Alaska more control over certain aspects of the permitting process. This legislation has potential impact for the development of the proposed Pebble mine. It could make the permitting process easier for developers, but may also cut out public input requirements under the federal permitting process.
House Bill 77 and Senate Bill 26 address land exchange issues and provide authority to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources commissioner to issue general permits for state land rather than requiring individuals to obtain separate permits.
House Bill 78 and Senate Bill 27 would allow the state of Alaska to assume control of the 404 Wetlands permitting process, thereby bypassing federal NEPA requirements. As stated by the governor in his transmittal letter to the Legislature, "This change will limit federal overreach in Alaska by giving the State authority to make jurisdictional determinations, timely process permits, and allow responsible resource development. Removing a significant amount of wetlands from federal authority also reduces the number of projects requiring an expensive and time-consuming federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, since there would be fewer 'major federal actions' associated with these projects."
27 January 2013
In the January 2013 issue of the Pebble Watch newsletter, we focus on permitting for the proposed Pebble Mine. We interviewed Sharmon Stambaugh, Large Mine Project Coordinator in the Office of Project Management and Permitting (OPMP), Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The following is an extended Q & A with Sharmon about how large mine permitting works in Alaska.
In the "Permitting Large Mines in Alaska" guide on your website, "Pre-scoping/schedule" is the first step in the process. Give us an idea of your involvement in this step for Pebble project. Has Pebble worked closely with you on these issues so far?