Pebble Mine opponents urge EPA to kill project

EPA head, Gina McCarthy hears testimony from Iliamna & Newhalen residents regarding the Pebble Mine project. (Photo courtesy KDLG)

EPA head, Gina McCarthy hears testimony from Iliamna & Newhalen residents regarding the Pebble Mine project during a visit last year.  (Photo courtesy KDLG)

About 30 opponents of the proposed Pebble Mine met in Washington Tuesday with White House and high-ranking EPA staff. They came armed with a new EPA study that found a mine of Pebble’s size would pose a significant risk to Bristol Bay and its valuable salmon fisheries. Now they’re asking the Environment agency to take the next step and kill the project. They didn’t get a definite answer.

Katherine Carscallen came representing 1,800 commercial fishermen. She is part of the delegation that urged the EPA to use a section in the Clean Water Act to block the mine’s construction.

“We’re thanking them for the time they’ve taken to study this issue an now we really need to see an action that will give our industry certainty into the future,” Carscallen said.

Executives at Pebble Partnership say it’s far too soon for the EPA to take any kind of action. They haven’t even applied for permits yet. The say last month’s watershed assessment is flawed, in part because it’s based on a hypothetical project. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young also say the EPA shouldn’t butt in now, before the state has a chance to review permit applications.

But Alannah Hurley, from Dillingham, says it’s not too early at all. She says the mine has been a threat hanging over her community for a decade, her entire adulthood. Hurley is in Washington to represent United Tribes of Bristol Bay.

“To spend a ginormous portion of my life worrying about the future of our watershed is horrible,” Hurley said. “It’s stressful; it’s terrifying to think that everything that makes you who you are could be taken away.”

The group was hoping to meet with the head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, but she couldn’t attend. Heather Kendall Miller, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, said an EPA official assured them the agency would soon announce its next step, which she took to mean within weeks. But no one from the Administration indicated what that action would be.

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