Alaska Governor Sean Parnell says the EPA is bypassing the established permitting system in Alaska by its decision last week to instigate a 404-C process to stop development of the proposed Pebble Mine. The EPA wants to use authority granted under the Clean Water Act to stop the issuance of dredge and fill permits.
The move comes before the Pebble Limited Partnership has released a mine plan and before they have even filed for permits. Alaska Governor Sean Parnell calls the EPA decision a preemptive veto.
“What I think this does is short-circuit the state permitting process. The EPA has the ability to be an influence in the state permitting process but exercising a preemptive veto like they have proposed doing is something that I think should not be done.”
Governor Parnell made his comments Monday in Petersburg. Parnell has long believed that the developers of the proposed Pebble Mine should be able to submit their project for permitting.
“When a company applies for a state permit it kicks off a process. We’re not even at that stage yet. However, the EPA is stepping in and saying we want to influence this before a public permitting process can begin.”
The proposed Pebble Mine would sit on lands owned by the State of Alaska and the area in question has always been open to mineral exploration and possible development. Reaction to Friday’s decision by the EPA has run the gamut from outrage to full throated support. The New York Times editorial board published an editorial on Sunday claiming that the Pebble Mine would gravely threaten of the richest salmon fisheries in the world and would disrupt a delicate marine environment prized by conservationists, native tribes and commercial fishing interests alike. In the editorial the New York Times claimed the EPA is headed in the right direction.
The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which represents all the salmon driftnet permit holders who fish each summer in Bristol, issued a statement Monday applauding the EPA’s decision. Executive Director Bob Waldrop claims it is not possible to place one of the world’s largest mines atop the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery without devastating consequences. The process outlined Friday the EPA will include a public comment period and public hearings in the Bristol Bay region.