Today the EPA said it would suspend its process to withdraw the proposed restrictions for hard rock mining of the Pebble deposit in Bristol Bay. The Governor, Alaska House Speaker and organizations representing the Alaska Native community and fishing industries quickly responded.
This is a critical step forward in the fight to protect Bristol Bay and confirmation that EPA remains adamantly concerned about the devastating impacts from the proposed pebble mine. It’s important to note, however, that the EPA decision to not remove proposed restrictions is only the first step. To meet its duties to protect our waters and wildlife from the Pebble project, EPA will need to finalize the proposed protections—the very ones its own assessment found essential to protecting Bristol Bay from the Pebble mine.
The public spoke
Though just a first step, today’s decision is an important one as Pebble pursues permits, because it confirms that the protections EPA has proposed, and the science that supports those protections, will need to be addressed and overcome in order for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a permit.
One irrefutable truth this EPA action confirms is the importance of the public voice. Significant opposition to the proposed Pebble mine stopped the rush to undo years of science.
Over 1 million people commented on EPA’s proposal to withdraw its proposed protections. Of those, 99 percent unequivocally demanded that EPA not bow to the pressure of the Canadian mining company by withdrawing a decision that was based on peer-reviewed science.
The science spoke
The EPA’s own watershed assessment concludes that a mine would be catastrophic to Bristol Bay. Pebble Limited Partnership and its parent company, Northern Dynasty, would like to see this twice peer-reviewed science shoved under the rug. They even made a deal with the EPA’s Scott Pruitt to do so.
The people of Bristol Bay pushed back. Alaskans pushed back. Americans pushed back. The public demanded that the science, traditional knowledge, and their voices be heard.
Our voices have power. Our voices can give us the world we want.