Where it stands: Bristol Bay tribes and then more than a million Americans requested the EPA use its authority under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to protect the Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska where the Pebble Mine is proposed. The proposed mine site is at the headwaters of two rivers that feed into the largest wild sockeye salmon fishery on earth. EPA responded by (1) conducting a three-year, twice peer-reviewed scientific study, called the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, that confirmed the mine poses potentially “catastrophic” risks to the Bristol Bay watershed; and (2) issuing a Proposed Determination that, if finalized, would have restricted mining activities in Bristol Bay that the Watershed Assessment determined would harm salmon.
Isn’t Pebble already dead? Unfortunately, no. In 2014, mine opposition asked you to help mobilize your supporters to comment in support of the EPA’s proposal to use its authority under section 404(c) to limit mining activities that would harm salmon, a.k.a. the Proposed Determination. Hundreds of thousands followed through! The EPA received more than 1.5 million comments in support of strong protections for Bristol Bay. In short, Americans made it abundantly clear that the Pebble Mine is not worth the risk to the salmon, jobs and culture of Bristol Bay.
However, following a series of lawsuits and a change in political leadership within the EPA, the proposed protections so many of us asked for are on hold and are on the verge of being reversed.
So what’s happening now? In May, 2017, as part of a settlement agreement with Pebble, the EPA agreed to initiate the process for withdrawing its Proposed Determination and the protections we have long sought for Bristol Bay. While the science remains clear and nothing was done as part of the settlement to undercut the validity of the Watershed Assessment, the EPA is now soliciting comments about its plan to withdraw the Proposed Determination.