Pebble calls for EPA to halt its 404(c) action

The end of EPA’s “Consultation Period,” the first step of the federal agency’s 404(c) process to consider protections for Bristol Bay, brought a strongly worded response from Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP).

Documents submitted to EPA and released to the public April 29 state PLP’s case against the actions, saying that EPA should wait on any 404(c) process until the typical permitting process has taken place.

PLP’s objections include legal, policy and scientific arguments, led by the assertion that 404(c) actually does not give EPA authority to issue a pre-emptive veto.

PLP’s other arguments include:

  • Under Alaska’s Statehood Act and ANILCA, the land in question was set aside for mineral exploration, and EPA cannot withdraw this land.
  • EPA’s actions avoid the rigor of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is the way to resolve difficult scientific disputes.
  • Allowing EPA to veto the project before permits are filed will have a chilling effect on investment, such as the $700 million invested in Pebble to date by foreign companies.
  • EPA manipulated the science of the Watershed Assessment to support a particular outcome. (Since the release of PLP’s letter, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General has begun preliminary research to determine whether the agency followed laws, regulations, policies and procedures in developing the assessment.)

In February, EPA announced its intention to use its authority under Section 404(c) to protect the salmon fishery in Bristol Bay “from the potentially destructive impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.” The Consultation Period, typically 30 days, is a time during which developers can provide additional information to EPA to prove that there will be no unacceptable adverse affects to the area.

EPA is currently working on the next step, which is a document called the “Proposed Determination.” This document will provide EPA’s recommendations on how protections should be put into place. This could include limiting development in the Pebble mine area or restricting it from development altogether.

The Proposed Determination is expected to be released in early summer. After it is published, it will be open to the public for review, comment, and public hearings.