EPA’s new Pebble battle plan stokes fears of wider impact – by Dorothy Kosich (Mineweb.com – July 21, 2014)


U.S. EPA rejects its proposed veto of the Pebble Project in favor of ratcheting down how many miles of streams and acres of wetlands can be disturbed by the mine.

RENO (MINEWEB) – Alaska’s Congressional delegation has expressed concerns that the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest plan to stop the development of the Pebble Mine in Alaska will go far beyond the Pebble project.

Instead of issuing a blanket prohibition of developing Pebble to protect the Bristol Bay watershed, based on EPA’s effort to broaden the scope of its Clean Water Act section 404(c) authority, EPA now is trying to restrict fill activities at the project by proposing caps on how many miles of streams and acres of wetlands could be lost, which may severely impact the Bristol Bay fishery.

The Bristol Bay watershed produces half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon

In a news release issued Friday, EPA asserted that the mine waste produced by the Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum project would fill a major football stadium up to 3,900 miles, while its “massive mine tailings impounds…would cover 19 square miles.” The agency suggested Pebble would fill in 1,100 or more acres of wetlands and re-route streams to more than 20% of daily flow.

The Clean Water Act requires a section 404(c) permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before any person can place dredged or fill material into streams, wetlands, lakes and ponds. “Under Section 404(c), EPA is authorized to prohibit or restrict fill activities if a project would have unacceptable adverse effects on fishery areas.”

“EPA Region 10 has initially concluded that mining the Pebble deposit would affect the South Fork Koktuli River, North Fork Koktuli River and Upper Talarik Creek watersheds,” said the agency, adding it proposes to restrict all discharge of dredged or fill materials related to the Pebble deposit that would result in loss of streams, wetlands, lakes and ponds; or result in stream flow alternations.

The Pebble Partnership responded that while the EPA “has rejected requests to preemptively veto the Pebble Project in favor of imposing specific conditions on future development…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.”

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