EPA takes step toward ending ‘pre-emptive veto’ of Pebble Mine

Two activists hold anti-Pebble Mine posters in a back row of the Wendy Williamson Auditorium during an EPA public comment meeting on the Draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.
Activists hold anti-Pebble Mine posters at an EPA meeting in 2012. Photo by Daysha Eaton.

The EPA has announced its intention to reverse course on an action that would have thwarted the proposed Pebble mine in the Bristol Bay watershed.

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The Obama administration’s Clean Water Act restrictions, if finalized, would have made it hard for Pebble Limited Partnership to develop a major gold and copper deposit in Southwest Alaska. President Trump’s EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, has said he wants to give Pebble a fair chance to apply for a permit.

Pebble settled a lawsuit against the EPA in May. As part of that settlement, the EPA agreed to begin undoing the previous administrator’s so-called “pre-emptive veto” of the project.

The EPA’s notice in the Federal Register is expected within days. It kicks off a 90-day comment period.

United Tribes of Bristol Bay, commercial fishermen and lodge owners in the region have waged an intense campaign against the mine, despite Pebble’s promise of environmental safeguards.

Pebble CEO Tom Collier said the partnership is working on a plan for a smaller mine that he hopes to make public later this year.