Ranking Member Johnson Responds to EPA Settlement Decision Regarding Proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska

May 12, 2017

(Washington, DC) –Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pebble Limited Partnership, the subsidiary of the foreign-owned mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., reached a settlement agreement regarding the company’s litigation against the Agency. The settlement will permit the company to apply for a federal mining permit for its proposed massive open-pit gold and copper mine at the heart of Bristol Bay, Alaska, home to the largest natural sockeye salmon fishery in the world.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “I hope that this settlement will not prove to be another example of this Administration putting the interests of oil, gas and mining corporations ahead of the American people. The proposed Pebble Mine would be devastating to the environment, economy, and public health of the residents of the Bristol Bay Watershed.”

For more than one decade the Pebble Partnership has said it would be filing a mining application imminently to build their proposed Pebble Mine, but they never did and ran into financial hurdles. In 2013 and 2014 the company’s two financial partners, British mining company Anglo American and British-Australian global mining giant Rio Tinto, withdrew from the project. In 2014, after an extensive three-year environmental review, the EPA initiated the Clean Water Act’s Section 404(c) process to limit the scale and scope of the proposed mine. The 404(c) process has been used 13 times previously including eleven times by Republican Administrations and once prior to an application for a mine being filed. In 2014, soon after the company initiated litigation against EPA the court issued an injunction temporarily halting any work on the 404(c) process. The settlement now allows the mining company to move forward with its application, an ability they had prior to filing their lawsuit. The EPA also agreed to start a process to withdraw their proposed 404(c) determination, but they will be permitted to use their extensive scientific assessments of the Bristol Bay Watershed.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “I am disappointed to learn that Administrator Pruitt has blessed this settlement between the Pebble Limited Partnership and the EPA. The Bristol Bay Watershed is one of this country’s most treasured natural resources and home to the world’s largest natural sockeye salmon run which is an integral part of the social and cultural heritage for native Alaskan tribes. It also supports more than 10,000 American jobs and generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic output.  If Administrator Pruitt is serious about environmental stewardship, as he indicated during his confirmation hearing, then EPA’s prior lawful and extensive science-based decision to limit mining activity in the Bristol Bay region should guide any future activity.”

Many of the concerns with the proposed Pebble Mine are detailed in a Democratic Staff Report, “The Pebble Promise in Bristol Bay,” released in April 2016 and available here.