What Alaska leaders, advocacy groups and industries are saying about the EPA rejection of Pebble mine

The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision on Tuesday to block development of the Pebble copper and gold mine in Southwest Alaska drew responses from a wide array of groups and Alaska leaders.

The agency’s “final determination” is a landmark moment for Bristol Bay leaders and conservation, tribal and fishing groups who have fought the project for two decades. But it angered Alaska politicians and business trade groups, who said it hurts economic opportunities and raises the prospects that the federal government could stop other important projects.

[EPA issues long-awaited final decision halting Pebble mine]

Here are some of the initial reactions:

• “Today, these Clean Water Act protections provide certainty that Pebble cannot be built in Bristol Bay,” said Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “On behalf of UTBB, I’d like to say quyana, chin’an, thank you to the EPA and the Biden Administration not just for this decision, but for working throughout this 404(c) process to consult with our tribes. EPA’s action today helps us build the future where our people can remain Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Alutiiq for generations to come.”

• “Today’s action by the EPA to preemptively veto the proposed Pebble Project is unlawful and unprecedented,” said John Shively, chief executive of Pebble Limited Partnership. “For well over a decade, we have argued that fair treatment under the rules and regulations of the U.S should be followed for Pebble or any other development project. Unfortunately, the Biden EPA continues to ignore fair and due process in favor of politics. This preemptive action against Pebble is not supported legally, technically, or environmentally. As such, the next step will likely be to take legal action to fight this injustice.”

• “For the first time in two decades, our fishermen will head out on the water this fishing season without the existential threat of Pebble mine looming just upriver,” said Katherine Carscallen, director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. “Thousands of small fishing businesses and industry members are thanking the Biden administration and the Environmental Protection Agency for finalizing Clean Water Act protections which recognize the importance of Bristol Bay, its record-breaking salmon runs, and the irreplaceable sustainable jobs it supports.”


• “EPA’s veto sets a dangerous precedent,” said Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy. “Alarmingly, it lays the foundation to stop any development project, mining or non-mining, in any area of Alaska with wetlands and fish-bearing streams. My administration will stand up for the rights of Alaskans, Alaska property owners, and Alaska’s future.”

Bristol Bay, fishing and environmental groups

• “This is an incredible day for Bristol Bay,” said Nelli Williams, Alaska director for Trout Unlimited. “For more than a decade, the science has remained strong and public support has been unwavering for Clean Water Act protections.”

• “The residents of Bristol Bay have worked together to oppose this mine for more than 20 years, and today marks a major milestone in that long journey,” said Ivy Spohnholz, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Alaska. “With today’s final determination from the EPA, local leaders in Bristol Bay can now begin building for the future of Bristol Bay rather than fighting against a mine they don’t want.”

• “Today is a great day for Bristol Bay, and one that many thought would never come,” said Jason Metrokin, chief executive of Bristol Bay Native Corp. “While the immediate threat of Pebble is behind us, BBNC will continue working to protect Bristol Bay’s salmon-based culture and economy and to create new economic opportunities across the region.”

• “EPA listened to our people’s call and will now protect our lands and waters for future generations. This is fantastic news for our region,” said Robin Samuelsen, board chair of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. “Bristol Bay has been fighting this mine for more than two decades, and today we celebrate that the EPA listened and took action to protect our home. Our fishery is critical to our region’s survival both economically and culturally, and this decision will enable us to continue feeding our families and the world.”

“We are glad to see the Environmental Protection Agency finally protect Bristol Bay from the threat of Pebble Mine,” said Andy Wink, executive director of Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. “Due to the hard work and dedication of the Biden administration and Environmental Protection Agency, our fishermen can now do their jobs without worrying about Pebble Mine destroying Bristol Bay’s iconic salmon runs. This decision is a huge conservation win that will ensure we can continue to deliver tens of millions of wild sockeye salmon to the market every year, feeding families from coast to coast.”

Other business and industry groups

• “Copper is an essential mineral for any renewable energy source, and Pebble is one of the most significant sources of copper in the nation and around the world,” said Deantha Skibinski, executive director, Alaska Miners Association. “Improperly shutting down the opportunity at Pebble puts the nation’s green goals at risk, and the biggest beneficiary of this will be adversarial foreign countries that lack environmental and social values. This decision is a disgrace to Alaskans and Americans.”

• “Today’s decision places Alaska and the United States at an economic and environmental disadvantage,” said Kati Capozzi, president and CEO of the Alaska Chamber. “The EPA’s veto continues us down a slippery slope of regulatory uncertainty and all those that oppose development in our nation are paying close attention and applauding today’s announcement. Any project on the horizon could be next — be it a road, a wind farm, oil exploration, fisheries and associated infrastructure, or a wastewater treatment plant.”

• “We have cautioned that should this preemptive veto move forward, it will become accepted as a standard option for stopping development of any kind, including those in Alaska’s forest products industry,” said Tessa Axleson, Alaska Forest Association. “It will have become a validated hypothesis anti-development opponents can use to challenge the National Environmental Protection Act analysis on any project proposed around anadromous waters. Today’s decision cats a dark cloud on Alaska’s future economic potential.”

• “AOGA continues to oppose any agency making decisions about projects before the full permitting process, including the appeals process, has been completed,” said Kara Moriarty, president and CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. “Today’s decision undermines regulatory certainty and predictability in Alaska. It is unfathomable that one regulatory agency can stop a project before the project can be afforded full due process by another regulatory agency.”

• “Today’s unprecedented action by the EPA is a dangerous abuse of power and federal overreach,” said Leila Kimbrell, executive director for the Resource Development Council for Alaska. “This decision goes beyond the proposed project site and withdraws more than 300 square miles of state-owned land. These were lands selected by the state of Alaska from the federal government at statehood specifically for their mineral-rich deposits. This violates the federal government’s agreement with Alaska and is an end-run around the federal Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act’s ‘no more’ clause.”

• “The development of our natural resources requires a regulatory framework that is rigorous, science based, transparent, and predictable,” said Karen Matthias, executive director, Council of Alaska Producers. “This means allowing permits to be filed, evaluating a specific plan of operation, encouraging public involvement, measuring impacts, and thoroughly assessing options for mitigation and protection. Ignoring the results of the Environmental Impact Statement is not sound science.”

Alaska’s congressional delegation and attorney general

• “EPA’s final determination should mark the end of Pebble, which was already rejected by the agency in 2020 and does not have the access, permits, financing, public support, or disposal sites needed to proceed,” said Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “As Senator (Ted) Stevens once said, it is the ‘wrong mine in the wrong place,’ and does not deserve to move forward — for good reason. To be clear: I oppose Pebble. To be equally clear: I support responsible mining in Alaska, which is a national imperative. This determination must not serve as precedent to target any other project in our state and must be the only time EPA ever uses its veto authority under the Clean Water Act in Alaska.”

• “I opposed the Pebble Mine following the Trump administration’s thorough, fair, and objective process — based on science — which ultimately denied Pebble’s permit application,” said Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan. “The Trump administration denial was based on the law and the specific and detailed project application in front of the federal agencies, and the importance of the world-class salmon resource that exists in the region Today, the Biden administration is doing something different — using a pre-emptive veto, which raises serious legal questions and has the potential to establish a very troubling precedent for resource development on State of Alaska lands.”

• “After decades of regulatory uncertainty, I hope that this ruling gives the people who live and work in Bristol Bay the stability and peace of mind they deserve and the confidence that this incredible salmon run will no longer be threatened,” Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola said. “I also understand that some Alaskans might be disappointed by this decision. To all of you, know that I am committed to our state’s development and to helping local communities build robust economies with good-paying jobs.”

• “The State remains committed to defending its property rights, including its right to develop its mineral interest for the benefit of all Alaskan citizens,” said Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor. “EPA’s decision has short-circuited the State’s normal process for environmental review, and has instead substituted the opinions of purported ‘experts’ located in Washington, DC. The future of Alaska’s mineral development should be decided at home, by Alaskans. Washington’s overstep into the State’s process was unwarranted and should not be allowed to continue. As such, the State intends to challenge EPA’s decision. The State presented strong legal and policy arguments outlining why EPA’s decision is wrong and we look forward to meeting EPA in court.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect first name for Jason Metrokin, chief executive of the Bristol Bay Native Corp.

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Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or