At this year’s annual convention of Alaska Federation of Natives, Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski outlined her opposition to Pebble Mine and said long-term protections for the Bristol Bay region are needed and something she would be considering in the next Congress.
“The administration has said that Pebble cannot be permitted as proposed, and I agree with that and I plan to build on my appropriations language from last year to ensure the Bristol Bay region remains protected. But while we may have stopped Pebble today, I think now is the time to start thinking about the future,” she said in October. “We need longer-term protections for the region that can also provide enduring value for Alaskans and I’m planning on working that in this next Congress.”
On Wednesday, a week after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected the project’s permit, a coalition of Bristol Bay leaders announced such a plan to enact lasting protections for the region’s fishery. Entitled “A Call to Protect Bristol Bay,” the proposal calls on the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a Clean Water Act veto of the project and for Congress to create national fisheries area for the region.
For more than 15 years, foreign-owned mining companies have sought to develop a massive open-pit mine that puts all of this at risk. Public outrage over well-documented scandals that came to light during the final stages of the permitting process spurred our elected leaders to move forward and publicly express strong opposition to Pebble Mine,” says the plan, which was released by Bristol Bay Native Association, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation and United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “But now, after these revelations that Pebble Mine executives lied, and the permitting process is at a close, these open-ended admonishments are not enough.”
The EPA veto would essentially reinstate the Obama-era Clean Water Act veto of the project, which President Donald Trump rescinded following a meeting with Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The second part of the plan would be for Congress to establish the “Jay and Bella Hammond Bristol Bay National Fisheries Area” that the group says would “protect the waters of Bristol Bay, Alaska in perpetuity.” Part of that call would be to permanently ban toxic mine waste from any large-scale mines that could impact the Bristol Bay watershed.
“True protections for Bristol Bay must stop the immediate threat of mining, ensure that no future proposal will hurtle through the federal permitting process unchecked, and provide a lasting guarantee to future generations that our lands and waters will not become a mining district,” said UTBB Board President Robert Heyano. “Any protections that do not meet this standard are unacceptable.”