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Letter to the Hon. Andrew Wheeler, Admin. of the Environmental Protection Agency - Huffman, DeFazio Urge EPA Administrator to Protect Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine


Dear Administrator Wheeler:

We write to urge you to use your authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to

protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine. The Environmental Protection Agency can veto the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the grounds that the Pebble Mine would have significant impacts to one of America's most ecologically valuable waters. The agency has itself already acknowledged that these threats exist -- in January 2018, then Administrator Scott Pruitt noted that "any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there"[1].

If constructed, the Pebble Mine would be the largest open pit gold and copper mine in North America. It would be sited at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, threatening a globally significant ecosystem and imperiling the world's greatest wild sockeye salmon fishery, which drives a multimillion-dollar economy. Alaska indigenous communities have lived and depended on the Bristol Bay watershed for thousands of years. Further, the project doesn't meet the standards of the people of Alaska, who have made their opposition to it quite clear - opposition is consistently between 55-60% among Alaskans and the mine is opposed by Alaska Native Tribes, sportsmen, fishermen, and scientists.

A project of massive scale should face an incredible amount of careful scrutiny, but the permitting process led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been one of the fastest permitting processes for a project of this size under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). It is promising that USACE has finally acknowledged that the mine "would likely result in significant degradation of the environment and would likely result in significant adverse effects on the aquatic system or human environment". While USACE has announced the Pebble Mine cannot be permitted as currently proposed[2], it is important to note that USACE has not made a decision on the permit but has required the project sponsors to submit a mitigation plan in 90 days. There is no level of compensatory mitigation that would be sufficient to address the mine's irreversible harm to the pristine environment that exists in Bristol Bay.

It is thus critical that the EPA exercise its authority under the Clean Water Act and oppose the flawed Environmental Impact Statement. The Pebble Mine would put the livelihoods, cultures, and economy of Native Tribes and Bristol Bay communities at grave risk and we urge you to fulfill your mission to protect human health and the environment.