Alaskans representing the voices of local residents, commercial fishermen, sportsmen, Alaska Natives, and business owners have descended on Washington this week to push for action on the stalled EPA process to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska’s sockeye salmon fishery and save 14,000 American jobs. The Pebble Mine, proposed by from a foreign mining conglomerate, will generate up to 10 billion tons of toxic waste at the headwaters of one of America’s most productive fisheries.
“After a year of delay, the 14,000 Americans whose jobs and livelihoods depend on Bristol Bay deserve to be heard,” said Tim Bristol, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “The Environmental Protection Agency and the Obama Administration have studied this issue long enough, and it’s time to finally start a process that stops the Pebble Mine from becoming an Exxon Valdez on land. With unprecedented support from a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, businesses and nearly 60% of Alaskans, the time to protect Bristol Bay and save American jobs is now.”
Anglo American, a foreign mining company of luxury metals with a record as one of the world’s biggest polluters, forms half of the Pebble Limited Partnership, which has said it plans to file a permit application for the mine this year. Its partner, Northern Dynasty, filed detailed plans with the SEC to build North America’s largest open-pit mine and the world’s largest earthen dam in Bristol Bay, Alaska, home to America’s most productive salmon streams.
An independent, scientific assessment has concluded that a mine similar to Pebble could discharge more than 10 billion tons of toxic waste in our water, destroying a $1.5 billion fishing industry that employs 14,000 Americans nationwide. Already, the threat of the toxic mine has led to widespread economic uncertainty and suppressed job-creating investments in the commercial fishing industry.
The EPA has the authority under the Clean Water Act to stop this mine, but only if it releases a revised watershed assessment and begins a long overdue comment period that will allow ordinary Americans to make their voices heard. The original draft watershed assessment was released nearly a year ago, yet the process has dragged into another year and another fishing season. Alaskans are now demanding action.
Unlike similar issues before the White House, the effort to save Bristol Bay commands broad support from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, 900 hunting and fishing groups, 26,000 retail food stores, 225 chefs and restaurant owners, and 22 jewelers like Tiffany and Co. that would actually benefit from the mine. Nearly 60% of Alaskans and 80% of Bristol Bay residents oppose the construction of Pebble Mine, particularly Alaska Natives who fear the destruction of their 8,000 year-old culture.
This week, the Save Bristol Bay Coalition will meet with officials from the EPA, Congress, and the White House to push for long-awaited action, and launch an ad campaign to tell Washington that it’s time to listen to the thousands of Americans whose jobs and livelihoods depend on the protection of Bristol Bay. The ad urges the Administration to release the facts about the Pebble Mine and links to a take action page. It will run on Politico’s homepage today.
Commercial fishermen, sportsmen, and Alaska Natives who are in Washington this week are available for additional comment about the need to protect Bristol Bay from the job-destroying Pebble Mine. They will also host a reception on the Hill – open to members of the press – on Tuesday, April 23 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in room 385 of the Russell Senate Office Building.