The Fight Continues

Several weeks ago, the EPA made the rare decision to use their authority and the Clean Water Act to pause permitting for the Pebble Mine and begin the process of permanently halting the construction of the mine. However, Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowski recently cosponsored a senate bill called the “Regulatory Fairness Act”, which would prohibit the EPA from using the Clean Water Act to restrict permits forĀ  developments with “unacceptable adverse affects“. Her actions were met with much disappointment and disapproval from various citizen groups. 14 sportsmen and conservation groups sent a letter to the senators supporting this bill, outlining their concerns. The Executive Director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association released a statement about the legislation, stating that “We have said many times that the fishermen of Bristol Bay are not anti-mining; we are pro-jobs, pro-salmon and pro-salmon marketing. The EPA has just begun a process to protect our Bay from harmful mining development, and that process should continue”. Both letters point out the EPA finding that, even without an accident, the creation of Pebble Mine would destroy 94 miles of spawning stream and over 5000 acres of wetlands. They also point out that the local fishing industry has a 1.5 billion dollar income and supports 14,000 jobs. The sportsmen also point out that Bristol Bay supplies more than economic benefits- it also allows for recreation and cultural tradition. A poignant part of their letter reads “While we do not always agree with the EPA or its actions, in the case of Bristol Bay, the EPA is acting to protect productive fish and game habitat”. Often hunters and fishermen do not agree with environmental groups because they see conservation policies as an infringement on their rights and the fact that the sportsmen address their past with the EPA makes their letter even more powerful. The development of the Pebble Mine goes above politics and differing ideologies for these local groups; they are able to put the past behind them because they feel so strongly about this issue. Senator Murkowski has not responded to these letters or publicly addressed her decision to co-sponsor the bill. It will be interesting to learn what aspect of the Pebble Mine have caused her to ignore or downplay the results of the EPA assessment and the desires of her constituents. The “Regulatory Fairness Act” will continue to draw out this battle between preservation and development





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