EPA, Pebble Partnership present arguments over alleged FACA violations

The Environmental Protection Agency and Pebble Limited Partnership presented oral arguments Thursday over whether or not the EPA violated federal law, when it opted to restrict mine waste disposal in Bristol Bay.

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Pebble Limited Partnership alleges the EPA formed a number of de facto advisory committees of mine critics that operated behind closed doors, rather than out in the open while writing the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. That assessment could result in the massive gold and copper prospect being restricted or prohibited.

“The way the statute works, it says that when you reach out to non-federal employees and seek their advice and bring them into the process as though they were federal employees, you have to do it according to a format that’s set out in the statute that makes sure it’s done in the open and that it’s done fairly,” Tom Collier, the CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, said. “And they didn’t do that.”

The EPA disputes those claims, saying no such committees were formed and that Pebble had as many opportunities to make their views known as groups opposed to the mine.

Kimberly Williams is the executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai, a Dillingham non-profit that includes tribal corporations and governments opposed to the Pebble Mine. She came to the courthouse in support of the EPA.

“We feel that, you know, they’ve come out, they’ve listened to everybody, they’ve met numerous times out in the region, holding meetings not only in Dillingham, but up in Illiamna, where Pebble was located,” Williams said. “So, we’ve had unprecedented access, just no different than Pebble has in letting our views known on large scale mining.”

The EPA urged the court to dismiss the case.

Judge H. Russel Holland took the arguments under advisement and will make a decision at a later date.

Judge Holland issued a preliminary injunction in November, halting the EPA’s 404-C process regarding the Pebble Mine, while the court reviewed the allegations.

The EPA and Department of Justice refused to comment further, as the case is still in court.

In a separate case, a federal appeals court panel upheld an earlier decision by Judge Holland, dismissing Pebble’s challenge of the EPA’s 404-C process as premature.