Alaska’s open-pit Pebble Mine sits on 55 billion pounds of copper, 67 million ounces of gold, and 3.3 billion pounds of molybdenum—$500 billion in value. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to keep it there.
The EPA is proposing significant limitations on extraction—before the Pebble Limited Partnership, the developers of the mine, have even filed a permit. The reasoning behind the EPA’s stringent limitations, as well as previous threats to preemptively veto the mine’s permit, is that the agency believes the mine development would endanger the salmon habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed.
The EPA’s concerns regarding the fish habitat appear to be reasonable—Alaskans do not want the salmon population decimated—but the EPA’s assertions and warnings come with almost no credibility.
The EPA’s case rests on an environmental analysis of a theoretical mine that would not come close to meeting state and federal standards for mining activities. The scientists and experts serving on the peer review panel of the EPA’s assessment on the Bristol Bay watershed called parts of the report “hogwash.” Geologist Steve Buckley said the assessment had “no detailed discussion of engineering practices” and “a lack of any detailed research into applicable engineering and mitigation methods” to protect the environment and the salmon habitat.
Alaska is a state blessed with both abundant natural resources and beautiful wildlife. State and local leaders in the Last Frontier understand that resource development and environmental protection successfully coexist. Pebble Mine should be no different.
The EPA’s process, or lack thereof, for proposing conditions on Pebble should be cause for concern for every project in the United States. Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier remarked:
We believe that EPA does not have the statutory authority to impose conditions on development at Pebble, or any development project anywhere in Alaska or the US, prior to the submission of a detailed development plan and its thorough review by federal and state agencies, including review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Moreover, EPA’s attempt to preemptively impose conditions on future development at Pebble, in the absence of completing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as is required of every major development project in the United States, is causing significant and even critical harm to our business interests and our abilities to fairly advance our project.
President Obama preached the need for sound science and transparency when making policy decisions and implementing regulations. Perhaps he should re-send that memo to the EPA.