Federal legislation that could affect Pebble Mine development

Pebble Watch is tracking three federal bills that have the potential to affect the development of the proposed Pebble Mine.

Two of these bills seek to either remove or restrict the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.  The third bill seeks to provide federal funding for protecting and restoring “salmon strongholds.”

H.R. 517

This bill seeks to repeal Section 404(c) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Section 404(c) gives the EPA the authority todeny or restrict the use of a defined area as a dredged or fill material disposal site.” If the EPA decided to use its 404(c) authority in Bristol Bay, it could limit mine development in the area. This bill would remove EPA’s 404(c) authority.

H.R. 517 was introduced in January 2011 by Representative Don Young (R-AK). It is currently in the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, chaired by Bob Gibbs (R-OH).


H.R. 2018: Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011

Among other changes, this bill would give individual states the authority to trump any 404(c) decision the EPA might make regarding dredge fill. It would amend the current 404(c) language so that a 404(c) ruling would not apply to any permit if the State in which the discharge originates or will originate does not concur with the Administrator’s determination that the discharge will result in an unacceptable adverse effect…”

H.R. 2018 was introduced on May 26, 2011 and was passed by the House of Representatives on July 13, 2011. It is currently on the Senate calendar.


S.1401: Pacific Salmon Stronghold Conservation Act of 2011

This bill would provide federal funding for private/public partnerships that would work to protect and restore the “healthiest remaining salmon strongholds in North America to sustain core centers of salmon abundance, productivity, and diversity in order to ensure the long-term viability of salmon populations.” In the State of Alaska the bill would “increase resources available to public and private organizations working cooperatively to conserve regional core centers of salmon abundance and diversity.”

If the Bristol Bay area is defined as a salmon stronghold to be protected, this legislation could provide funding for organizations that would work toward that goal. How that might affect development of the proposed Pebble Mine is unclear at this time.

S.1401 was introduced in July 2011 by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Co-sponsors include both Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). S.1401 is currently in the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation chaired by John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV).