EPA Proposals for Pebble Mine Draw Much Comment

Environmental Protection Agency officials held the first of
seven public hearings in Anchorage on the evening of Aug. 12, drawing a cross-section
of opponents and supporters of the proposed Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska.
EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran made it clear
that the restrictions would apply only to the copper, gold and molybdenum mine
proposed by the Pebble Limited Partnership. According to EPA records, said McLerran,
the stream and wetland losses from a mine this size would be unprecedented in
Alaska and perhaps the nation.
In a statement issued in advance of the hearing, the
Resource Development Council in Anchorage, which supports the mine, urged its
membership to testify before the Sept. 19 comment deadline on the proposal. The
Resource Development Council said the proposed determination “focuses on the
effects of a mining project that has not been proposed, and for which key
engineering solutions, environmental safeguards, and mitigation measures have
not been provided.
“This is a deeply flawed speculative approach,” the council
Among the mine supporters at the EPA hearing was Tom
Collier, chief executive of PLP. He began his comments by saying, “It’s ludicrous
that we’re having a public hearing 17 business days after you released a
200-page technical report. I think this hearing is much more about show than it
is about substance.”
Commercial and sport fishing organizations and Native
Alaskans in the Bristol Bay region are voicing strong opposition to the mine.
Bobby Andrew, a spokesman for Nunumta Alukestai, Caretakers
of the Land, a nonprofit of tribal corporations in the Bristol Bay region, was
one of several people who spoke about the recent tailings dam breeching of the
Mount Polley mine in British Columbia and the impact a similar event could have
on the Bristol Bay watershed. The Mount Polley tailings pond dam failure has
heightened concerns by opponents of the mine that a similar situation could
happen in Bristol Bay.
Charles Treinen, vice president of United Fishermen of
Alaska, which represents 37 fishing trade associations, reiterated UFA’s
position that is appropriate for EPA to utilize its authority under the Clean
Water Act to regulate placement of dredge and fill materials that would affect
water quality of the Bristol Bay watershed.
Bob Waldrop, former executive director of the Bristol Bay
Regional Seafood Development Association, expressed his thanks to EPA for their
analysis of Pebble’s likely impact on the world-renowned wild sockeye salmon
fishery. But Waldrop said he is concerned that the proposed determination may
not be sufficiently rigorous.
He urged EPA to complete the process by asserting the
tightest possible restrictions.

“The process,” said Waldrop, “justifies it and the salmon
require it.”