2014

13 August 2014

Public forum on Bristol Bay Forever Initiative

Alaska Common Ground is sponsoring a series of free forums on issues appearing on the August and November ballots, including the Bristol Bay Forever Initiative.

On Wednesday, August 13, from 7-9 p.m. in the Wilda Marston Theatre of the Z.J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage, voters will hear experts discuss the pro and con positions regarding this initiative. The Anchorage Public Libraries and the League of Women Voters of Anchorage are cosponsoring the event. More information.

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12 August 2014

EPA public meeting in Anchorage on proposed Bristol Bay restrictions

Members of the public can comment in person on EPA's Proposed Determination - a document that details its recommended restrictions on large-scale mining at the Pebble deposit in Bristol Bay.

The Anchorage public meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Tuesday, August 12 at the Egan Center in downtown Anchorage.

EPA has provided the following questions to consider for those wishing to provide comments:

  • Do you think the Proposed Determination should be recommended and finalized? Why or why not?
  • Do you have additional information on potential impacts on the North Fork Koktuli River, South Fork Koktuli River and Upper Talarik Creek watersheds, and downstream reaches of the Nushagak and Kvichak Rivers resulting from mining of the Pebble deposit?  Specifically information about: 

    • Fish and other ecological resources
    • Water quality, flora, fauna and hydrology
    • Wildlife species
    • Recreation
    • Drinking water
  • Can you suggest potential mitigation actions that could compensate for the damage caused by mining the Pebble deposit?
  • Should the discharge of dredged or fill material be completely prohibited, restricted as proposed, restricted in another manner or not restricted at all at this time?

 

Additional meetings will be held in these Bristol Bay communities:

New Stuyahok: Wednesday, August 13 at 5pm
Cetuyaraq Community Center

Nondalton: Wednesday, August 13 at 5pm
Nondalton Community Center

Kokhanok: Thursday, August 14, 5pm
Community Center

Dillingham: Thursday, August 14 at 5:30 pm
Middle School Gymnasium

Iliamna: Friday, August 15 at 12pm
Community Center

Igiugig: Friday, August 15 at 12pm
Tribal Hall

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11 August 2014

Pebble-related public meetings to be held this week

Public meetings related to development of the proposed Pebble mine will be held this week in Anchorage and in communities in Bristol Bay:

Public Forum on Bristol Bay Forever Initiative

On Wednesday, Aug. 13, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., in the Wilda Marston Theatre of the Z.J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage, voters will hear experts discuss the pro and con positions regarding the "Bristol Bay Forever" public initiative. The Anchorage Public Libraries and the League of Women Voters of Anchorage are cosponsoring the event. More information.

EPA public meetings on proposed Bristol Bay restrictions

Members of the public can comment in person on EPA's Proposed Determination - a document that details its recommended restrictions on large-scale mining at the Pebble deposit in Bristol Bay.

First up is the Anchorage meeting, scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12, at the Egan Civic and Convention Center in downtown Anchorage. This meeting is expected to run for several hours.

EPA has provided the following questions to consider for those wishing to provide comments:

  • Do you think the Proposed Determination should be recommended and finalized? Why or why not?
  • Do you have additional information on potential impacts on the North Fork Koktuli River, South Fork Koktuli River and Upper Talarik Creek watersheds, and downstream reaches of the Nushagak and Kvichak rivers resulting from mining of the Pebble deposit? Specifically information about: 

    • Fish and other ecological resources
    • Water quality, flora, fauna and hydrology
    • Wildlife species
    • Recreation
    • Drinking water
  • Can you suggest potential mitigation actions that could compensate for the damage caused by mining the Pebble deposit?
  • Should the discharge of dredged or fill material be completely prohibited, restricted as proposed, restricted in another manner or not restricted at all at this time?

Additional meetings will be held in these Bristol Bay communities:

New Stuyahok: Wednesday, Aug. 13, at 5 p.m.
Cetuyaraq Community Center

Nondalton: Wednesday, Aug. 13, at 5 p.m.
Nondalton Community Center

Kokhanok: Thursday, Aug. 14, 5 p.m.
Community Center

Dillingham: Thursday, Aug. 14, at 5:30 p.m.
Middle School Gymnasium

Iliamna: Friday, Aug. 15, at Noon
Community Center

Igiugig: Friday, Aug. 15, at Noon
Tribal Hall

 

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01 August 2014

New from Pebble Watch: two guides related to EPA's Proposed Determination

guideproposeddeter
guidepublicinpu
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently receiving public comments on its Proposed Determination for restrictions at the Pebble deposit site in Bristol Bay. Public meetings are coming up August 12-15.

Find out what you need to know about the Proposed Determination and public input opportunities in these two guides from Pebble Watch.


Overview of Proposed Determination - Highlights, chapter guide, terminology and a timeline of the 404(c) process.


Guide to Public Comment on EPA's Proposed Determination
 - Meeting schedule, tips for preparing comments, and more.

 

 

 

 

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18 July 2014

Responses to the Release of EPA’s Proposed Determination

EPA’s release on Friday of its Proposed Determination was the first opportunity for the public to see just how the Agency intends to limit adverse effects from large-scale mining at the Pebble deposit. Reactions to the proposed restrictions were varied, with some lauding the EPA for its efforts, and others arguing that EPA has no authority to impose conditions on development before permitting has begun.

Northern Dynasty Minerals (NDM): NDM is now the sole owner of the Pebble deposit, and CEO Ron Thiessen released a statement decrying EPA's use of the 404(c) authority, although he acknowledged that the Agency had held back from a pre-emptive veto of the project, electing instead to impose less-sweeping limitations to development at the mine site. Even so, NDM contends that EPA has no authority to proceed with restrictions before the permitting process has begun - and is in fact suing the Agency over its actions.

Congressional reactions: Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) “blasted the EPA,” according to this report from “The Hill,” saying that the EPA will use this process as a “blueprint” for stopping economic development across the country. Alaska Senator Mark Begich (D) said that the limited scope proposed by the EPA ensured that there would be no repercussions outside of Pebble. He continues to state that Pebble is the "wrong mine in the wrong place."

Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC): BBNC is one of the Native organizations that invited the EPA to Bristol Bay in 2010 to determine how development could impact the area. CEO Jason Metrokin applauded EPA’s recommendations, saying they appear to be “common sense, baseline standards for the Pebble project.” He noted that BBNC shareholders have been concerned about the proposed mine for many years.

 

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EPA releases proposed restrictions for large-scale mining in Bristol Bay

Today EPA released a Proposed Determination that details restrictions it is recommending in order to protect the Bristol Bay fishery from adverse effects of large-scale mining of the Pebble deposit.

Here are some highlights of that document, which is open to public review and comment through September 19, 2014.

EPA says developers were unable to prove that there would be no unacceptable effects.

EPA asked Northern Dynasty Minerals (NDM), Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) and State of Alaska for information that could prove that no unacceptable effects would occur due to disposal of dredge or fill materials associated with mining the deposit. They submitted information, but it did not convince the EPA.

Proposed mitigation plans are not adequate according to EPA.

Compensatory mitigation efforts proposed by PLP have not typically been effective long-term and are unlikely to offset adverse impacts, according to EPA.

EPA underestimates potential impact.

EPA used a “conservative analysis” when looking at possible negative effects of dredge/fill discharge in the area. EPA’s proposed restrictions are based on adverse effects from construction and routine operation of a 20-year mine (extracting approximately .25 billion tons of ore). EPA notes that adverse impacts would occur with a mine of longer life, and are also likely due to accidents.

EPA selects limited area for restriction.

EPA limited the area in which it is proposing restrictions to the waters within the mine claims “held by NDM subsidiaries, including PLP, that fall within the South Fork Koktuli, North Fork Koktuli, and Upper Talarik Creek Watersheds.”

Proposed restrictions are specific to stream loss and alteration and loss of wetlands, lakes and ponds.

EPA has provided specific numbers in its proposed restrictions. Any discharge of dredge/fill that would lead to the following would be prohibited:

  • Loss of five miles or more of salmon streams (or loss of 19 or more miles of streams that are tributaries of salmon streams)
  • Loss of 1,100 or more acres of wetlands, lakes and ponds that connect with salmon streams or tributaries of those streams
  • Alterations greater than 20% of daily flow in 9 or more linear miles of salmon streams 

If these restrictions are approved, only a mine plan that meets those restrictions could move forward to permitting.

During the ongoing 404(c) process, no permits can be authorized for large-scale mining at the Pebble deposit. After the 404(c) process is complete -- if restrictions are finalized -- any mine plan would need to fully meet the restrictions in order to proceed to the first stage of the permitting process.

The public can comment through September 19, 2014.

The public is encouraged to comment on the Proposed Determination. There will likely be public meetings in August. Citizens can submit commentary during those meetings or in writing.

EPA’s Executive Summary

EPA’s Proposed Determination

Link to public comment. (Specify Docket # EPA-R10-OW-2014-0505.)

Pebble Watch Guide to the 404(c) process

Read more

10 July 2014

News roundup: July 11, 2014

Alaska Tribes to Back EPA in Pebble Mine Case (The Hill, July 3, 2014)

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay is seeking to intervene in the lawsuit that Pebble Limited Partnership initiated in May against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is currently seeking to restrict or prohibit large-scale mining at the Pebble deposit in Bristol Bay. The coalition of Alaska Native Tribes will support the EPA in the lawsuit. The State of Alaska had previously filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of the Pebble Limited Partnership.

Read the story.

Read Pebble Watch coverage of the PLP lawsuit. 

Judge Asked To Halt EPA Action on Pebble (KTUU, July 2, 2014)

As part of its ongoing lawsuit against the EPA for its use of 404(c) authority under the Clean Water Act, Pebble Limited Partnership has filed a motion asking a federal judge to halt the EPA's efforts to restrict or prohibit large-scale mining at the Pebble deposit area in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Read the article

Fishing Contest Hopes to Raise Awareness of Pebble Mine Project (KDLG radio, June 26, 2014)

Commercial Fishermen of Bristol Bay are sponsoring a photo contest, "Faces of the Fleet," to draw attention to the industry that would be "severely impacted if the watershed of Bristol Bay were impacted by large-scale mining." Contest details are provided in this story by Dillingham's KDLG radio. 

Read the article

Tribes Bypass State Rules, Want EPA to Stop GTAC Mine (Wisconsin Public Radio, June 20, 2014)

Northern Wisconsin's Chippewa Federation has written a letter to EPA asking it to use its 404(c) authority to stop mining permitting activity in the Penokee range, according to this article on Wisconsin Public Radio's news site. This is the same authority EPA recently used to begin efforts to restrict or prohibit large-scale mining in the Pebble deposit area of Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Read the article

Read more

24 June 2014

"Bristol Bay Forever" initiative to appear on ballots Nov. 4

A public initiative that has been challenged all the way to the Alaska State Supreme Court will make its way onto the November 4 ballot, per this Supreme Court order. If passed, the "Bristol Bay Forever" initiative, referenced in the order as "12BBAY," would "require legislative approval of any large-scale metallic sulfide mining operation within the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve, or which has the potential to adversely affect any anadromous waters within the reserve." 

Public signatures were gathered in 2012 to put the initiative on the ballot, and the petition application was certified as valid by the Lieutenant Governor. Eighteen months of legal challenges followed, with Richard Hughes, the Alaska Miners Association and the Council of Alaska Producers contending that the initiative violates the Alaska State Constitution on three counts.

Yesterday's expedited decision allows ballots to be prepared with the initiative included. A written opinion explaining the decision will be released at a future date.

Learn More:

Article: Alaska Supreme Court Clears Bristol Bay Initiative for Ballot (APRN, June 23, 2014)

Document: Supreme Court Order

Document: "Bristol Bay Forever" initiative

 

Read more

12 June 2014

News Roundup: June 16

Recent news regarding the development of the proposed Pebble mine includes a new deposit acquisition in Bristol Bay for Northern Dynasty Minerals, and a hearing over the public initiative "Bristol Bay Forever."

State Supreme Court Hears Case to Remove Pebble Initiative From Ballot (APRN, June 11, 2014)

The "Bristol Bay Forever" initiative will appear on the November ballot unless the State Supreme Court reverses previous decisions upholding its certification as a valid issue to be put to the general public. This story describes a recent hearing in a court case that has gone on over the last eighteen months between the State of Alaska, which upholds the certification of the initiative, and the Alaska Miners Association and Council of Alaska Producers, who argue that the initiative is unconstitutional. The initiative, if passed, would require legislative approval of a project such as Pebble in Bristol Bay.

Read the story.

Northern Dynasty Accepts More Mining Claims Near Pebble  (Bristol Bay Times, June 6, 2014)

Northern Dynasty Minerals, sole owner of the Pebble deposit, has acquired 294 mining claims near Pebble, in the Big Chunk "Super Project" gold and copper deposit. According to this report in the Bristol Bay Times, NDM purchased 95 claims from Liberty Star Uranium and Metals in 2010, and put another 199 claims up as collateral for a $3 million loan from NDM. Liberty Star was unable to repay the loan, and so the claims were transferred in mid-May of this year.

Read the story.

BBNC sells its donated Northern Dynasty stock  (KDLG, June 15, 2014)

In April global mning corporation Rio Tinto donated its shares in Northern Dynasty Minerals, sole-owner of the Pebble prospect, to two Alaska non-profits: Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation and the Alaska Community Foundation. This story from KDLG radio reports that the Education Foundation, a separate organization from Bristol Bay Native Corporation, recently sold the Northern Dynasty stock for $6.4 million, with proceeds planned for scholarships and a cultural heritage program.  

Read the story.

Dillingham to Murkowski: No Pebble Mine  (Bristol Bay Times, June 6, 2014)

In a late-May visit to Dillingham, Senator Lisa Murkowski spoke to a group of more than 200 residents, many of whom signed up to speak. Those who got a chance expressed their concern about her co-sponsorship of Senate Bill 2156, which is aimed at limiting EPA's 404(c) authority under the Clean Water Act. 

Read the story.

Read Pebble Watch coverage of Murkowski's visit.

Read more

03 June 2014

State of Alaska petitions to join Pebble in civil suit against EPA

The State of Alaska Office of Attorney General has petitioned the Alaska District Courts to join the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) as co-plaintiff in a civil suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At issue is EPA's use of its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to consider restrictions or limitations on development at the Pebble deposit in Bristol Bay. EPA is proceeding with the 404(c) process, and is currently finalizing a "Proposed Determination" that will detail its suggestions for limiting/restricting development.

In its motion to intervene in the civil suit against the EPA, the State contends that EPA's use of 404(c) will set a precedent of vetoing projects before they enter the typical permitting process. The EPA asserts that the Clean Water Act gives it the authority to pursue 404(c) action before, during or even after the permitting process.

The State of Alaska Office of Attorney General characterizes its role in the case as an effort to "prevent the EPA from taking land by prematurely limiting development before the state's permitting processes have a chance to work." Attorney General Michael Geraghty said that the EPA actions were troubling because it "sets precedent for the EPA to take land anywhere in the United States and prematurely limit development of a valuable resource."

Pebble Watch spoke with Assistant Attorney General Ruth Hamilton Heese regarding the State's motion, particularly to clarify the State's use of the term "taking land." While she declined to talk about the specifics of the case, Heese did express that the State is concerned about EPA's actions both from a land-owner standpoint as well as a regulatory standpoint, and that the "legal principle of taking land is also at play." According to Heese, since the State owns the land, and since its designated use is for mineral exploration, the EPA's actions are seen by the State as "basically undoing a land use."  

This is not the first time that the State of Alaska has joined PLP as a plaintiff. In 2011, the State intervened to join Pebble in a lawsuit to stop the "Save Our Salmon" initiative, which was a Lake & Peninsula Borough initiative related to restricting development of large-scale mines. That initiative was allowed to be placed on the ballot, where it passed by a small margin. The State and PLP joined in a suit to invalidate the results of the initiative. Alaska Superior Court ruled in their favor in March 2014.

In order to join the current suit against EPA, the State has to make the case that Alaska's interests would be affected by a decision and that the current plaintiff (PLP) would not represent all the interests of the State. 

Next steps

PLP and EPA have an opportunity to respond to the State's request. PLP has already said that it has no issue with the State as a co-plaintiff. The EPA said it would wait to respond until it has the opportunity to review the motion. Final say on whether the State can join the suit is up to the Alaska federal district court.

Read the news release.

Read the motion.

Read PLP's original complaint against EPA.

Read more