Good news for Pebble, fair process

Finally, some measure of sanity is returned to the Pebble Mine debate as the EPA takes a step back from its Clean Water Act pre-emptive veto of the Bristol Bay region mine even before the first permit application could filed.

The decision could clear the way for Pebble to proceed through a normal permitting process under the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

President Donald Trump’s EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, says he wants to give the project a fair chance to apply for a permit. The Obama administration’s Clean Water Act restrictions pretty much ended the Pebble Limited Partnership’s plan to develop the vast gold and copper deposit in Southwest Alaska.

The move comes after Pebble settled its lawsuit against the EPA in May. The federal agency agreed to begin undoing the previous administrator’s so-called pre-emptive veto of the project.
The EPA’s notice starts the clock ticking on a 90-day comment period.

Proponents say it would be an economic boon for the region. Opponents worry it might destroy Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon fishery. Bristol Bay Native groups, commercial fishermen and lodge owners have waged an intense protest campaign against the mine

The Pebble Partnership is trying to develop the world-class gold, copper and molybdenum mine worth billions of dollars about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage that could produce an estimated 80.6 billion pounds of copper, 107.4 million ounces of gold and 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum.

The partnership sued after the federal agency, relying on highly questionable science, took almost unprecedented pre-emptive regulatory action under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to block the mine.

Pebble claimed violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and Freedom of Information Act. U.S. District Court Judge Russel Holland sided with the EPA on some Pebble claims in the FACA lawsuit, but he ruled it “plausible” the EPA improperly “utilized” input from anti-mine groups in drafting the Bristol Bay Watershed study the agency had based it preemptive action on.

In the settlement, the EPA agreed that the Pebble Project can proceed under a normal course of permitting and Pebble dropped its lawsuit.

The EPA has been biased and unfair in its handling of the Pebble Mine by putting its thumb on the scale and using, even promoting use of, questionable science as a means of supporting derailment of  the normal permitting process. It has shown government at its worse.

Surely, the fight is far from over. The Pebble Mine evokes strong emotions on all sides, but it, like any other project, deserves a fair chance. Instead of being blocked by the whim of a federal agency, Pebble should be allowed to make its case in a fair and balanced process.

We have said it before; we will say it again: Let Pebble go forward and let the chips fall where they may.


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