U.S. Supreme Court denies Alaska’s bid to revive Pebble mine proposal blocked by EPA

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected Alaska’s bid to revive a proposed copper and gold mine that was blocked by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The justices did not comment in turning away the state’s attempt to sue the Biden administration directly in the high court over its desire to revive the proposed Pebble Mine in the state’s Bristol Bay region.

A year ago, the EPA stopped the mine proposal, citing concerns with potential impacts on a rich aquatic ecosystem that supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

[Alaska groups face off as state calls on U.S. Supreme Court to hear its challenge of EPA’s Pebble mine veto]

States can sue each other and the federal government in the Supreme Court, though the justices typically deal with appeals and hear only a few original cases each year.

Alaska still can try to reverse the decision through the more typical process, starting in a lower court and appealing any unfavorable decisions to the Supreme Court.

In a statement on social media Monday, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy called the decision “disappointing,” but said his administration will continue to pursue the case.


“The State is confident that the lower courts will find that EPA violated the law with its prohibition and restrictions against any mining activity within the 309-square mile area surrounding the Pebble deposit,” Dunleavy said. “The State will continue to fight against this flagrant overreach.”

Pebble Limited Partnership CEO John Shively in a statement Monday also expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court’s decision and said the case will continue to play out in lower courts.

“It is important to note that this is not a comment on the arguments put forward by the state,” Shively said. “We have long stated our belief that the EPA has acted outside of its regulatory authority and that remains our position today.  The legal issues raised by the state will now work their way through the federal courts.”

The Pebble deposit contains minerals worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Pebble Limited says development there will support the state’s economy and create up to 2,000 jobs.

Pebble’s opponents say the mine threatens Bristol Bay’s lucrative commercial and sport salmon fisheries, as well as subsistence fishing for Alaska Native communities. Those groups said they were pleased with the Supreme Court’s move. In a statement Monday, Delores Larson, interim executive director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, called the state’s lawsuit “frivolous.”

“Governor Dunleavy’s lawsuit was — and will continue to be — a massive waste of taxpayer money that only represents the interests of the company behind the Pebble Mine. The Tribes, fishermen, and local communities were just celebrating the EPA’s Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay, just to be thrown back into uncertainty less than a year later,” Larson said in a statement. “We are tired of being ignored by our elected officials. Our leaders must listen to us and help protect this watershed forever.”