US House approves anti-Pebble amendment; Young votes no, defends permit process

C-SPAN.org screengrab

The U.S. House voted 233-201 for an amendment that would block the Corps of Engineers from proceeding on a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine.

The sponsor, Rep. Jared Huffman, said what Pebble Limited Partnership wants to do near the headwaters of Bristol Bay is unprecedented. 

“There is no other U.S. hardrock mining operation that captures and treats such a massive volume of contaminated mine water, which is harmful to fish and to public health,” Huffman said in the debate over his amendment. “We know that mines are not invincible. Things go wrong.”

Huffman, D-Calif., said an accident at the mine could devastate Bristol Bay’s valuable salmon fishery, degrade Native cultures and ruin businesses that rely on the region’s world-class sportfishing. His amendment cuts off funding to the Corps of Engineers to finish the environmental process that’s underway.

Alaska Congressman Don Young voted against the amendment – not to defend the mine, he said, but to support the permitting process. 

“You’re ignoring the science. And you brag about the science all the time,” Young said on the House floor, apparently to Huffman. “Let the science prove us right or wrong. That should be your responsibility. Not say you’re for or against the mine and give all these doomsday things there. They may happen. If that happens, it will not happen because we’ll not issue the permit.”

The amendment is attached to a spending bill which has now cleared the House. But the Senate usually writes its own version of the bill, and the anti-Pebble amendment is unlikely to be brought up in the Republican-controlled Senate.