Written by Jen Finn
Last issue, I discussed at length the parameters of the proposed Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay, Alaska. It is a massive gold and copper open-pit mine located at the headwaters of the most productive salmon fishery in the world. It's completion would have disastrous implications for the health and longevity of the fishery, and those whose lives and livelihoods depend upon it.
Stopping Pebble Mine, however, is a tricky issue. The land where the mine is proposed is owned by the State of Alaska, but the mineral rights for that land are held by a private conglomerate, in which representatives of some of the worlds largest mining companies take part. Similar to the battles being fought on other environmental fronts, grassroots organizations are going up against enormous, wealthy, powerful industries.
It's David v. Goliath, and the stakes couldn't be any higher.
Most effort to stop the building of the mine has thus far been directed towards Alaska's State Government. As the proposed mine is on state land, the state will be the authority for issuing the necessary permits for the mine to proceed. This is all well and good for any in-state environmental supporters, but for those of us outside Alaska who care about our planet's well-being, there is another route that holds merit.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a comprehensive environmental analysis of Bristol Bay, in order to deduce the potential hazardous effects that the building of Pebble Mine would have on the local ecosystems. In short, the study's conclusion termed Pebble Mine to be nothing short of 'catastrophic.'
The EPA is the Federal agency currently holding the most potential power for halting Pebble Mine. Under the Clean Water Act of 1972, the EPA sets and regulates surface water contaminants and contaminant discharges for industry, particularly into navigable waters. If it can be proven that Pebble Mine will cause contamination exceeding federal standards in the waters that feed Bristol Bay, it will need to apply for permitting from the EPA.
As it is almost certain that the mine will produce enough pollution to exceed federal standards, the EPA would proceed by completing an Environmental Impact Statement – much as it has done in the permitting situation for the Keystone XL Pipeline. In this situation, the EPA will have the power to shut down the proposed Pebble Mine for good, for without the EPA permit, the mine cannot be built.
Read the full story at the Spectrum>>
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