SEATTLE - Now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun the yearlong process that could lead to halting construction on the controversial Pebble Mine, stakeholders in Alaska’s bountiful Bristol Bay are weighing in.
There is celebration over what could be possible protection for the world’s most productive sockeye salmon fishery. There is wariness about a process that could impede progress on the largest open pit mine in North America.
And there is also a lot of anger up in the Last Frontier, where many of the region’s deeply independent residents bristle at what they view as the federal government’s meddling in their affairs. This is Alaska, the sentiment goes, and we can take care of our own.
Various stakeholders, in their own words, speak out:
The Environmental Protection Agency:
“Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries.” – Gina McCarthy, administrator, EPA
“Mining the Pebble deposit will involve excavation of the largest open pit ever constructed in North America, completely destroying an area as large as 18 square kilometers and as deep as 1.24 kilometers. Disposal of waste material will require construction of up to three waste impoundemnts covering an additional 50 square kilometers.” – Dennis J. McLerran, regional administrator, EPA
The mine owners:
"We remain confident in our project and our position ... The EPA's actions today are an unprecedented federal action and reflect a major overreach into an asset of the State of Alaska. There is a prescribed, science based process for evaluating projects such as Pebble and the EPA has initiated a step that turns this process on its head." – Tim Collier, chief executive, Pebble Limited Partnership
The Alaska natives:
“Bristol Bay Native Corporation appreciates that EPA will identify appropriate options to protect Bristol Bay from the risks Pebble poses. While BBNC supports responsible development, including mining, the science has shown that the proposed Pebble mine presents unacceptable risks to Bristol Bay salmon, people and existing economies.” – Jason Metrokin, president, Bristol Bay Native Corporation
“We are happy with the EPA’s decision to take this crucial step. I and more than 30 other Alaskan leaders just came bace from Washington to urge the EPA to do so. Now we’re one big step closer to protecting our salmon, our resources and our people from the proposed Pebble mine.” – Kimberly Williams, director of Nunamata Aulukestai, an association of Bristol Bay native tribes and native village corporations
“Though Bristol Bay supports a $1.5-billion commercial fishery and 14,000 jobs in total, our commercial fishermen have lived for a decade under a cloud of economic uncertainty. Today’s announcement from the EPA shows that the clouds over Bristol Bay are beginning to move.” – Katherine Carscallen, sustainability director, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Assn.
“People in the region depend on salmon for jobs. People who can trace back their history thousands of years asked for protection through the Clean Water Act. Today, we may be one step closer to that.” – Tim Bristol, Alaska program manager, Trout Unlimited
“The decision is clear. The science is definitive. Some places just shouldn’t be mined, and the Bristol Bay watershed is one of them.” – Jennifer Krill, executive director, Earthworks
“This puts EPA’s eyes on the prize. Bristol Bay is the richest salmon habitat in the world. We can’t let Pebble Mine put that at risk.…The science is sound, EPA’s legal authority is clear, and the people of Bristol Bay have demanded protection. It’s time to say no to Pebble Mine.” – Joel Reynolds, Western director, Natural Resources Defense Council
The elected officials:
“Today’s egregious action by the EPA goes beyond federal overreach. It is unprecedented. The EPA has not only cut off public input and process, but has also unilaterally decided that they, not Alaskans, know what’s best for our future. The State is prepared to pursue all legal options to ensure Alaska’s rights are protected.” – Sharon Leighow, spokeswoman for Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell
“Having the EPA come in to do the state’s work to protect our fishing streams was not my first choice. But the governor refused to take action to stand up for Alaskans in Bristol Bay, and the majority of Alaskans who value our fishing waters.… I would not have sided with foreign mine owners who seek to jeopardize the world’s greatest wild salmon and trout waters.” – State Rep. Les Gara
“I applaud this action today to protect Northwest fishing jobs from being destroyed by the largest open pit mine in North America. Washington and Alaska fishermen depend on Bristol Bay for their livelihoods. Ruining headwaters with mining pollution is too big a risk to existing jobs in the Pacific Northwest.” – Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell
Twitter: @marialagangaCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times