EPA’s public input period dominated recent news, but there were also personnel changes at EPA Region 10 and the Pebble Limited Partnership.
“Bristol Bay’s Pebble Mine Back in Play” (Oct. 17, Outside Magazine) gives an overview of the controversial project and how it’s been given a boost by the new administration.
EPA’s proposal & public input
EPA’s public input period on its proposal to remove proposed restrictions at the Pebble deposit garnered 758,261 comments by the October 17 deadline. Residents in Dillingham and Iliamna gave EPA representatives comment in person during public hearings in those Bristol Bay communities last week. The number of comments for this proposal is more than the EPA received on the Proposed Determination. The EPA was going through those comments when it was forced to stop all work on the process due to litigation with the Pebble Limited Partnership.
EPA announced that an Alaskan, Chris Hladick, will be the new Regional Administrator covering Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Montana. Hladick has experience in Alaska, as former city manager of Galena, Dillingham and Unalaska and most recently as Commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Developmentas Read our interview with former Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran.
Pebble Limited Partnership filled two executive positions this month. Stephen Hodgson will lead engineering design, and James Fueg will be responsible for permitting. PLP CEO Tom Collier noted their years of work with leading mining companies and “long-standing experience in Alaska” when announcing their appointments.
A group of 29 tribes formalized an agreement to work together to oppose mining projects in salmon watersheds. The memorandum of agreement signed during the Alaska Federation of Natives conference in Anchorage was described as an historic partnership between tribes of Bristol Bay and Southeast Alaska. The Seattle Times wrote about opposition from fishermen’s groups in “Washington fishermen are on the front lines in fight against proposed Alaska mine.” And members of Congress are opposed to EPA’s move to withdraw proposed restrictions, as “Democrats in Congress join fight against Pebble mine,” (Alaska Public Media, October 11).
The non-profit group Stand for Salmon filed an application for a ballot initiative designed to provide protections for salmon habitat. It was initially denied by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott on the advice of the Department of Law, which argues it is unconstitutional. That decision was overturned on appeal. While the group works toward getting enough signatures collected to put the initiative to an April vote, the State of Alaska has appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court to block it from being on the ballot.
The United Nations Environmental Programme calls for mining companies to avoid constructing high-risk tailings dams, as reported by mining.com.
CNN’s Wonder List features an episode on Bristol Bay and the proposed Pebble Mine on Saturday, October 28.