May 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

EPA proposes new restrictions to block controversial Alaska mine

Bristol Bay

Naknek River, which flows into Bristol Bay, Alaska, in the summer of 2019. Photo: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency took another step toward blocking a controversial copper and gold mine in the watershed of Alaska's Bristol Bay, proposing new restrictions that are likely to kill the project.

Why it matters: The bay includes the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery. Construction of the Pebble Mine project would have a significant impact on fishing in the area and the ecosystem as a whole, the EPA says.

Details: A new legal determination proposed by the agency would "prohibit and restrict the use of certain waters in the Bristol Bay watershed as disposal sites for the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble Deposit."

  • During the Obama administration, the agency used the Clean Water Act to limit mining activity in the region, per the Washington Post. That policy was reversed under President Trump in 2020.
  • The EPA indicated last fall that it would probably move to block the project.

What's next: The agency said it will accept public comments until July 5, then publish a final legal determination.

What they're saying: "The Bristol Bay watershed is a shining example of how our nation's waters are essential to healthy communities, vibrant ecosystems, and a thriving economy," EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

The other side: "I find it ironic that the President is using the Defense Production Act to get more renewable energy minerals such as copper into production while others in the administration seek political ways to stop domestic mining projects such as ours," John Shively, the CEO of Pebble Partnership, said in a statement.

  • "The Pebble Project remains an important domestic source for the minerals necessary for the Biden Administration to reach its green energy goals and if it blocks Pebble it will have to seek minerals to meet its goals from foreign sources who simply do not have the same environmental standards as we do," he added.
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