Governor plans to appeal US Army Corps of Engineers decision on Pebble Mine

January 12, 2021

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration announced that it would file an administrative appeal to challenge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to deny a key permit for Northern Dynasty’s proposed Pebble copper and gold project in Southwest Alaska.

In a statement released on Jan. 8, the governor’s administration said, “The flawed decision by the Alaska District creates a dangerous precedent that will undoubtedly harm Alaska’s future and, any potential project can fall victim to the same questionable standards. We have to prevent a federal agency, in this instance, the Alaska District of the Army Corps of Engineers, from using the regulatory process to effectively prevent the state from fulfilling a constitutional mandate to develop its natural resources.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected a permit for the mine in November under both the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act. However, the Corps left open a path for Pebble to administratively appeal the decision.

Pebble has not yet filed that appeal, said Mike Heatwole, a spokesman with developer Pebble Limited Partnership. It has until Jan. 25, a Corps spokesman told the Anchorage Daily News.

Alaska acting attorney general Ed Sniffen said the state will ask the Corps’ Pacific Ocean Division to send the decision back to the Alaska District for a “more thorough review consistent with the law.”

“The Division ignored Corps’ long-standing guidance that required it to tailor mitigation requirements to recognize Alaska’s unique position of holding more intact wetlands than any of the lower 48 states combined. Instead, the Division is requiring mitigation measures that are simply impossible to meet in Alaska,” said Sniffen.

Alaska’s U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have denounced the Pebble project for not meeting required environmental standards, and President-elect Joe Biden has said he’ll move to stop it from ever being developed.

“The Alaska District’s decision has far-reaching and ominous implications for our rights as a state to develop our resources for the benefit of all Alaskans, whether its mineral deposits like Pebble, or oil and gas on the North Slope, or other resources anywhere in the state,” said Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige. “The Alaska Constitution specifically directs us to develop our resources in the public interest. When a federal agency arbitrarily tries to deprive us of our rights with the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen, we simply must challenge that action.”
Dunleavy has not expressed a position on the mine but has said he supports a fair permitting process. Critics say he and his administration have taken numerous steps showing that he supports the mine.

If built, the mine would be located about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, near headwaters to the valuable Bristol Bay salmon fishery, generating concern among many Alaskans that development there will threaten the fishery.

 

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