2014

03 February 2014

Pebble Partnership shuffles leadership

Top leadership at Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) is changing, with John Shively moving to a Board of Directors role and attorney Tom Collier taking over the company's CEO position. Shively was recruited as the company's CEO shortly after it formed as a partnership between Northern Dynasty Minerals and Anglo American. According to a PLP press release, Collier—a former Chief of Staff under Department of the Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt—has worked with many Alaska-based clients and has provided strategic guidance to PLP regarding the federal permitting process; he also brings expertise regarding 404 wetlands permitting.

This change in leadership closely follows the release of the final EPA Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, which will inform EPA's decision regarding whether it will decide to pursue its authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to limit or prohibit development in the Bristol Bay region. Shively was tapped for the CEO position in 2008 partly because of his experience in Alaska, and partly because he was seen as a someone who could manage public criticism regarding the project.

At a 2013 Resource Development Council luncheon NDM CEO Ron Thiessen told a crowd about how Shively was recruited to PLP. (NDM is now the sole owner of the Pebble deposit; Anglo American withdrew from the project and PLP last fall.) Thiessen said that, years ago, when fishing the Kenai Classic, other fishermen asked him why he didn't stand up to negative reports in the media about the Pebble project. Regarding Shively, Thiessen said, "This is exactly the guy I need, who's going to stand up and take all that crap. Fortunately for us, John did join us and helped build a great team at the Pebble Partnership. I am very proud of those people and their accomplishments.”

PLP news release

Thiessen addressing RDC crowd (video)

News stories:

Shakeup Atop the Pebble Limited Partnership (KDLG Radio, Dillingham – February 3, 2014)  Northern Dynasty appoints regulatory heavyweight to lead Pebble permitting

Read more

24 January 2014

Response to Tribes is EPA's next focus

EPA-Ekwok-NewStu 53c After three years developing a final Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, the question for many is, “What will EPA do next?” Will the agency take steps to restrict development in Bristol Bay? No answers to these questions were forthcoming at a Jan. 14 press conference announcing the final assessment—which was described as a strictly scientific document.

The agency’s next focus, said EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran, will be to respond to the Bristol Bay Tribes who in 2010 asked EPA to use its little-used 404(c) authority to stop the development of large-scale mining in Bristol Bay.

(Above: Residents of New Stuyahok, in Alaska's Bristol Bay region, meet with representatives from EPA during a visit the agency made to the area while developing its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.)

Read more

23 January 2014

EPA Watershed Assessment At a Glance

While we are working on a summary of the EPA's final Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, we thought it would be interesting to create a "word cloud," a graphic that visually shows which words appear most frequently in the document. We used the "Wordle" program and text from EPA's Executive Summary, with the following results.

PW-wordcloudsm

Make your own word cloud! Just copy text from the watershed assessment and paste it into Wordle. Then post your creations on to our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PebbleWatch.

Read more

Review included multiple steps, opportunities for feedback

publicinvolvement

A peer review process was a critical component in developing the final EPA Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. As Pebble Watch wrote in our December 2011 newsletter: For EPA, peer review “is a process for enhancing a scientific or technical work product so that the decision or position taken by the Agency, based on that product, has a sound, credible basis.”

Here, we review what that peer review process was like for the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment and recap some basics: Who were the peer reviewers? What were their main concerns? How well were their comments addressed? Read on for our summary, and follow the links to read the original materials.

Read more

22 January 2014

News Roundup: January 22, 2014

This week's Pebble-related news included the release of EPA's final Bristol Bay Watershed assessment, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich's (D-AK) stated position against the mine, and the continued public criticism of HB77, a bill under consideration designed to "streamline" permitting.

EPA Critique Of Pebble Copper-Gold Mine Draws Praise, Blame From Environmentalists, Northern Dynasty Minerals (International Business Times - January 16, 2014)

This story includes reactions from both pro- and anti-Pebble camps. Read the full story

Begich on Pebble: "Wrong mine, wrong place, too big" (Anchorage Daily News - January 19, 2014 )

Sen. Begich tells reporter Lisa Demer that, after reading the EPA's final Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, he believes the mine is too risky. Read the full story.

Pressure on Pebble intensifies amid praise for Begich (Anchorage Daily News - January 22, 2014)

In a follow-up to its story on Begich, Anchorage Daily News reports additional anti-Pebble news ads and activities in Alaska and Washington State. Read the full story

Coghill expects further review for HB77 (Anchorage Daily News - January 22, 2014)

The controversial bill that would "streamline" the permitting process in Alaska likely will go to the Senate Resources committee for review, says State Senate Majority Leader Sen. John Coghill. Read the full story.

Read more

17 January 2014

EPA Watershed Assessment: Major findings

Over the course of three years preparing the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, the EPA has consulted more than 700 scientific sources, received more than 1 million comments and visited the Bristol Bay a number of times. Its major findings do not differ significantly between its first draft and its final: the agency predicts that significant direct impacts to fish-bearing streams are inevitable if a large-scale mine is developed in the area of the Pebble deposit, and devastating effects to aquatic life and habitat would occur if the mine's tailings facility were to fail. 

 

In the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, EPA describes the Bristol Bay watershed and its resources, and then assesses direct and indirect results of large-scale mining at the Pebble deposit. This risk assessment addresses a range of mining scenarios, based on Northern Dynasty Minerals' 2011 Preliminary Assessment, which described for its investors mining scenarios for 20, 25 and 78 years of mining. The largest scenario EPA considers is based on extracting 6.5 billion tons of ore. However, the Pebble deposit contains an estimated 11.9 billion tons of ore. EPA notes that "were a mine to be developed that fully extracted this amount of ore, potential effects could be significantly greater than those estimated in the assessment."

 

Major findings

  • Inevitable effects
    • Even operating on a day-to-day basis, a large-scale mine would impact between 24 and 94 miles of fish-bearing streams, and would eliminate up to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes.
    • Up to 33 additional miles of salmon-bearing streams would be affected by altered streamflows.
  • Effects in case of failure
    • Partial tailings dam failure: catastrophic effects
    • Transportation corridor: crosses 55 known salmon-bearing streams; culverrt failures, runoff or spills would put salmon-spawning areas at risk
    • Wastewater treatment plant failure: direct and indirect adverse effects on fish in up to 62 miles of stream
    • Pipeline: could release toxic copper concentrate or diesel fuel into salmon-supporting streams and wetlands

 

How the document has changed

During the course of its assessment development, additional studies became available to the EPA, including the "Environmental Baseline Document" published by the Pebble Limited Partnership in early 2012. While major findings did not change significantly between drafts, the EPA did respond to public and peer review comments to reorganize information and include detail in some sections. For example, the agency expanded its description of compensatory mitigation options in Appendix J in response to several requests for this information. EPA has published a comment-by-comment response to suggestions made by its independent peer review team and is currently preparing a similar document that will detail its responses to more than 5,000 public comments.

EPA Watershed Assessment Timeline - A Pebble Watch graphic

EPAWAtimeline2014sm

EPA Watershed Assessment

Fact Sheet

Executive Summary

Full document

Response to peer review comments

Pebble Watch Summaries

First Draft

Second Draft

Final version (coming soon)

 

 

Read more

15 January 2014

EPA's final assessment draws swift response

A flurry of early statements in response to yesterday's release of EPA's final Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment predictably fell into pro- and con- camps, with developers still calling the report flawed and Pebble opponents heralding the report's findings as proof that development in Bristol Bay should be restricted. The three-volume document is just over 1,400 pages long, including 772 pages of appendices--but that didn't keep most commenters from weighing in within an hour or two of the release.

Read more

U.S. EPA final report: large-scale mining detrimental in Bristol Bay

EPAcover2014The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released the final draft of its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, which has been under development since February 2011. The study reported that large-scale mining would be detrimental to the salmon, wildlife, and native Alaskan cultures of Bristol Bay. Specifically, depending on the size of the mine, 24 to 94 miles of salmon-supporting streams and up to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes would be destroyed.

The Watershed Assessment, officially known as "An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay," was conducted in response to requests from several tribes and organizations in Bristol Bay. The petitioners had asked EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to restrict development in the Bristol Bay watersheds.

Instead, EPA chose to study available science on the area, compiling its conclusions in an assessment it said would inform future decisions on whether to restrict development. The assessment itself does not restrict development, but Dennis McClerran, EPA's Region 10 Administrator, said that the agency will use it as the scientific foundation to determine how to respond to the tribes' 2010 request. “For EPA this is a big, important decision that has a high profile in terms of Alaska and the members of the community there. We will take any decisions we make going forward very seriously.”

Today’s release is the third and final version of the assessment, the result of a three-year process that included EPA visits to Bristol Bay, a scientific review by a panel and more than a million public comments—making it one of the most-commented-on documents ever released by EPA for public review. (Each of the first two drafts received enough comments to make EPA’s ‘top 10.’)

Congressional subcommittees took the EPA to task over the document, inquiring about both the agency’s intent and its methodology.

Pebble Watch provided readers with summaries of the previous drafts, and will also publish a summary of the final version when our staff has completed its review.

 

EPA Watershed Assessment Timeline - A Pebble Watch graphic

EPAWAtimeline2014sm

 

EPA Watershed Assessment

Fact Sheet

Executive Summary

Full document

Pebble Watch Summaries

First Draft

Second Draft

Final version (coming soon)

 

Read more