Pebble Partnership sues to prevent EPA action against proposed mine

Alex DeMarban

The company hoping to develop the huge Pebble mining prospect near salmon-rich Bristol Bay has filed suit to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from shutting the project down before a permit application has been filed and reviewed.

The Pebble Limited Partnership filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Alaska on Wednesday, arguing that the EPA has "vastly exceeded" its authority under the Clean Water Act by launching a process that could lead to a preemptive shutdown of the project, according to a media statement.

"If EPA ultimately vetoes Pebble before a development plan is proposed or evaluated through the comprehensive federal and state permitting processes, the precedent established will have significant long-term effects on business investment in this state and throughout the country," said Tom Collier, Pebble Limited Partnership chief executive, in a media statement.

The EPA, saying the giant copper, gold and molybdenum prospect could irreversibly harm Bristol Bay's wild salmon fishery, has said it is taking steps under the Clean Water Act to protect the fishery. Those steps could ultimately stop the mine before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed issuing a permit.

The lawsuit also argues the EPA is usurping the regulatory authority of the state and the U.S. Army Corps.

"Congress clearly intended for the EPA to play an important role in reviewing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' permitting decisions with the ability to exercise a veto when a project presents a risk of unacceptable adverse effects to aquatic resources," said Collier.

But that's only after certain steps are taken, including developers begin seeking permits, the launch of an Environmental Impact Statement process, and the Corps has proposed issuing a permit for a specific disposal site and specific disposal material.

"None of those steps have occurred at Pebble," Collier said.

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Alaska Dispatch