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.

A few of the early reactions:

Northern Dynasty Minerals, 100% owner of the Pebble prosect now that mining giant Anglo American has completed its withdrawal, had harsh criticism for the report and the process that created it, calling the report flawed and “the final chapter in a very sad story.” Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) also released a lengthy statement by CEO John Shively, who said the report “does not consider critical environmental safeguards and modern mitigation that state and federal permitting will require for Pebble.”

Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) applauded the release of EPA’s report, noting that the agency was in Bristol Bay because tribes and organizations – including BBNC – had asked EPA to get involved. BBNC CEO Jason Metrokin called for the EPA to act further and use its 404(c) authority to protect Bristol Bay.

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) appeared to be still mulling his stance. In a statement he said that he would spend the next few days reviewing the report: “I have always said I will let science be my guide, and my decision whether to support the Pebble project will be based on this report.”

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) –already on record calling for the EPA to use its 404(c) authority to restrict large development projects in Bristol Bay–said: “EPA’s scientific assessment is clear: the proposed Pebble Mine poses a direct threat to Bristol Bay salmon and the Pacific Northwest jobs that depend on them.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) expressed concern that the report indicates EPA is considering a “pre-emptive veto,” which she is against. “If the EPA has concerns about the impact of a project, there is an appropriate time to raise them – after a permit application has been made, not before.”

The EPA spent three years developing the report, which went through two formal reviews and two public input periods. During that time, EPA received more than a million public comments. The EPA has said that the assessment is a scientific document that will inform any future decisions the EPA makes regarding large-scale mining in Bristol Bay. In a press conference on Wednesday, EPA’s Region 10 Administrator Dennis McClerran emphasized that the agency has not yet made any decisions about whether to initiate a 404(c) action. He said the agency might wait until permit documents are filed, and may not take any action at all. He also said that there is currently no timeline for making a decision.

If the EPA were to initiate 404(c) action using its authority under the Clean Water Act, that action would trigger a separate public input process.

EPA Watershed Assessment Timeline – A Pebble Watch graphic


EPA Watershed Assessment

Fact Sheet

Executive Summary

Full document

Pebble Watch Summaries

First Draft

Second Draft

Final version (coming soon)