Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy says he’s going to take legal action against the Environmental Protection Agency’s veto of a pebble mine. On tuesday talk alaskaHe called the EPA’s final determination a political decision.
“It’s on state land. We traded the land for this particular mineral discovery,” he said. “The whole premise of Alaska as a going concern, as an entity, as a sovereign, is that we had to develop our resources. That’s the irony of this whole thing.
The EPA has vetoed mining in the Pebble Deposit in southwest Alaska, exercising a rarely used power under the Clean Water Act to ban and restrict the discharge of mined material into water around the site Ho. It says that doing so “will help protect the most productive wild salmon ecosystem in the world.”
Some Bristol Bay tribes began petitioning the EPA to exercise that veto right in 2010, and the process has flopped between three presidential administrations. Dunleavy, meanwhile, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the EPA’s actions on the Pebble Deposit.
Opponents of the mine are celebrating the decision, and Dunleavy said he understands some people don’t like the Pebble project.
“But as governor, my job is to make sure we take advantage of every opportunity,” he said. “I believe we have the best environmental standards in the world. And I think it’s… I think it’s a sad day for Alaska, for the country.”
The US Army Corps of Engineers denied Pebble a federal permit in 2020, but the company appealed that decision.
EPA officials said at a press conference Monday that the ban is specific to the gravel deposit and does not apply to any other projects in the state. But Dunleavy called the EPA’s action a “dangerous precedent.” He also said that it was one of a series of projects that could have provided jobs in Alaska but were cancelled.
“The irony of trying to shut down a lot of these projects is that they are located in some of the poorest areas of our state,” he said. “Now, what’s the answer for some of those people who want to develop their resources, whether it’s Kokhnok, whether it’s out of Pedro Bay, Ileana, what’s the option for them? A check from the government?
Opponents of the mine say it would threaten the region’s ecosystem as well as Alaska’s native cultures, which depend on traditional harvesting of wild foods such as salmon.
The Bristol Bay Native Corporation echoed other groups in applauding the EPA’s decision.
“We are pleased that the EPA issued a final determination,” said Daniel Chayette, the corporation’s senior vice president for land and resources. “We want to grow. But we want to grow in ways that are sustainable for the region and supported by the majority of people who live in the region and who are our shareholders.
Chayette calls the EPA’s decision a major brick in the wall to protect the region’s salmon-based economy. But he said an even bigger wall was needed to protect the Bristol Bay watershed from projects such as the Pebble Mine; The corporation plans to ask Alaska’s congressional delegation for help passing legislation to stop mining and other potentially harmful development in the area.
Alaska’s congressional delegation had mixed reactions to the announcement. Sen. Dan Sullivan Told While he opposed Pebble, the EPA’s actions could set a precedent for development on state land. Sen. Lisa Murkowski reiterated She opposed the mine but said she supports mining in the state and that the Biden administration has a responsibility to support other projects. Meanwhile, Rep. Mary Peltola supports EPA’s exercise of its veto authority at the site.
Rhonda McBride of the KNBA Contributed reporting on BBNC’s reactions to this story.