Grijalva on EPA Legal Settlement in Alaska: Protect Bristol Bay Instead of Giving it Away to an Unwelcome Mining Company

Washington, D.C. – With the announcement of a legal settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Northern Dynasty Minerals – the company proposing to build the environmentally destructive Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region – that could remove EPA’s proposed protections for Bristol Bay’s incredible wild salmon resource, Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said today that the Trump administration should listen to the more than 65 percent of Alaskans, 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents and Native communities, and 85 percent of commercial fishermen who oppose Pebble Mine and the devastating effects it would have on salmon fisheries and the entire Bristol Bay watershed.

The settlement postpones and potentially withdraws the Clean Water Act protections that EPA proposed to place on the mine following its exhaustive, peer-reviewed Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA), which the agency began in 2010 and developed over more than three years, receiving more than 1 million comments during two comment periods. The final BBWA found that the Pebble Mine, if constructed, could destroy up to 94 miles of streams and more than 5,000 acres of wetlands. In its current healthy condition, Bristol Bay supports 22,000 jobs and adds $674 million in economic activity to the states of Washington, Oregon, and California.

Because of its environmental quality and its importance to the local and regional economy, Alaska voters in 2014 passed the Bristol Bay Forever initiative with overwhelming majorities in every precinct. The law says that mines such as Pebble cannot open in the Bristol Bay area until the Alaska legislature formally finds that mining would not damage wild salmon in the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.

“Scientists spent years examining the potential damage an enormous mine would have in the middle of a world-class salmon fishery,” Grijalva said today. “They recommended crucial protections for the land, rivers, fish, and wildlife in the area. Now President Trump wants to ignore the science and eliminate those safeguards for the benefit of billionaire mining kingpins. If President Trump listened to local voices, he’d protect Bristol Bay instead of giving this beautiful area away to an unpopular, unwelcome mining company. Settling this lawsuit does not mean this mine will automatically go forward, and I will continue to fight to make sure decisions about this special place are based on science, not profits.”

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