An update from our friends at Trout Unlimited Alaska and Save Bristol Bay regarding what to expect with the proposed Pebble Mine this year. Let’s all work together to make 2020 the year this project finally gets put to rest for good!
“We’ve been saying it a lot recently, and Pebble knows it too: 2020 is going to be a critical year in determining if the largest open-pit mine in North America will be permitted in the headwaters of Bristol Bay.
In 2019, we saw the rushed permitting process continue, with the release of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement full of holes and incomplete information pertaining to the potential risks of the project, and a comment period where more than 685,000 people from across the country weighed in in opposition to Pebble.
But in 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA, Pebble, and opponents of the mine will see major milestones, and the stakes are even higher than before. Here’s what to watch for in 2020.
- Trout Unlimited’s lawsuit against the EPA. In October 2019, Trout Unlimited announced that we (along with tribes and conservation organizations) would be suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over their decision to withdraw protections for Bristol Bay that were established in the 2014 Bristol Bay Proposed Determination. These protections would have limited how much Pebble would be allowed to impact the world-class salmon and water resources of the region. Oral arguments will likely take place this spring, with a decision expected in late spring or early fall.
- Army Corps of Engineers will release the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). In the 2019 comment period that followed the release of the Draft EIS, many agencies like the EPA and Department of the Interior argued the DEIS was inadequate in addressing the potential risks of Pebble and needed to be revised. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski directed the Army Corps of Engineers to address all the concerns these agencies had in their production of the Final EIS. For a region and ecosystem as sensitive and productive as Bristol Bay, it’s imperative that scientific data and analysis be bolstered in the Final EIS. If it isn’t, we are certain that the permit will be denied because the science will clearly show that Pebble cannot operate safely alongside the fishery. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced that they are planning to release the FEIS in June 2020.
- Army Corps of Engineers will decide on Pebble’s most important federal permit. Following the FEIS, the Army Corps of Engineers is expecting to issue a Record of Decision (ROD) on Pebble’s 404(c) permit. Pebble must acquire this key federal permit in order to begin developing the deposit, and its science will inform many state permits to follow. If Pebble acquires this permit, they could begin digging in the sensitive headwaters of Bristol Bay in the next 3-5 years and CEO, Tom Collier, will receive a $13M personal bonus. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to issue a ROD in the unprecedentedly fast timeline (for a project of this size) in Fall 2020, which means we have until then to stop them.
It is critical that those who care about the fish, people and fish-based industries of Bristol Bay not only pay attention to these major milestones in 2020 by watching our website and social channels , but also take action to ensure that Pebble fails to advance this year.
The best ways to help Bristol Bay in 2020 is to:
- Donate to Save Bristol Bay so that we can continue to deliver the voices of Alaskans to decision-makers in DC and mobilize people across the country to be vocal in this critical year.
- Contact your elected officials and tell them that you are opposed to the Pebble mine, and that they should do everything in their power to stop it.
We look forward to working with you in 2020 to ensure that Bristol Bay is protected from this disastrous proposal.
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