Just 30 Days for the People to Comment on Pebble Mine; No Microphones for Public Hearings
The Trump administration is trying to rush through a review of the Pebble Mine in Alaska with some public hearings not even having microphones for speakers. Also, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has stripped the regional EPA office of its power to make decisions on a permit the mine will need.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is only allowing until April 30 for people to comment on the proposed open-pit copper and gold mine near the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska that supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.
“There is no way you can get meaningful comment in 30 days,” said Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay.
Public hearings scheduled for Anchorage, Homer and Dillingham, where opposition to the mine is especially high, won’t have microphones. People will have to submit comments by computer, in writing or with a court reporter.
Pebble Limited Partnership applied for a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The proposal says the mine would fill 3,190 acres of wetlands or other waters. The EPA can block sites for disposal in a section 404 permit if it finds there would be an “unacceptable adverse impact.”
In 2014, the EPA under former President Barack Obama said the loss of more than 1,100 acres of wetlands, lakes and ponds in the area would be unacceptable.
In March, Pruitt removed the authority of regional administrators to veto Section 404 permits issued by the Corps and gave it to the EPA Office of Water and David Ross who leads that office. Ross challenged the EPA’s Clean Water Rule as assistant attorney general of Wyoming in 2015.
“Pebble Mine…could have been his (Pruitt’s) impetus for taking this action and writing this memo,” said Kyla Bennett of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
Pruitt has known Andrew P. Miller, who lobbied for Pebble Mine investors, since at least 2012. Pebble Limited Partnership spent $790,000 on federal lobbying in 2017 and recently hired a firm led by former House Natural Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.)
The company behind the proposed Pebble Mine is Northern Dynasty Materials Ltd. of Vancouver which has been proposing the mine for more than a decade. Tom Collier, the CEO of the subsidiary that would build the mine, was chief of staff at the Interior Department under Bill Clinton.
“In my view, participation in the Pebble Project would be the antithesis of sustainable business practices and could create undue risk to the long-term value of the Fund’s investments in First Quantum Minerals and to the sustainability of the Bristol Bay region,” DiNapoli wrote.
Featured image: May 2017 Pebble Mine protest in Dillingham, Alaska. (KDLG photo)