District judge rules against Pebble Mine opponents

April 20, 2020

A U.S. District Court judged in Alaska ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could withdraw a “proposed determination” dating from 2014 about potential negative mine impacts. The ruling effectively allows the EPA to dismiss a case court case that was brought by a collection of groups opposed to the creation of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay Region.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could withdraw a “proposed determination” dating from 2014 about potential negative mine impacts, Alaska Public Media reported.

The EPA determination had concluded the mining project posed too great a threat to the salmon-rich waters of Bristol Bay.

The judge's ruling was based on the amount of latitude government agencies have and what is subject to legal review, rather than the merits or dangers of the mine.

The case focused on a “preemptive veto” the EPA issued during the administration of President Barack Obama, before Pebble Limited Partnership filed an application for the mine in Southwest Alaska.

The mine's federal permit application is pending with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the EPA retains the right to veto the permit, a power that was not diminished by this ruling.

The mine proposal has loomed over the region for years. But Pebble Limited Partnership did not apply for a permit while Obama was in office.

The mining company and Alaska's congressional delegation have complained of government overreach, saying the EPA tried to veto the project before seeing an application. The mining company eventually applied for a Clean Water Act permit in 2017.

The EPA said last year it would withdraw its proposed determination against the mine, which prompted the lawsuit by mine foes including the organizations Trout Unlimited, SalmonState and Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.

 

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