Advocates for protecting Bristol Bay welcomed the Senate’s confirmation Wednesday of Michael Regan as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, hopeful the Biden administration will return to Obama-era policy on the proposed Pebble Mine and water quality.
“Administrator Regan's commitment to environmental justice brings a much-needed focus at EPA and is a hopeful sign for the people of Bristol Bay who have spent the better part of two decades working to stop a toxic mine from destroying our cultures and way of life, said Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, in a statement after the 63-34 confirmation vote. “We look forward to having an EPA administrator who will listen to Bristol Bay's Tribes and communities and work with us to protect our lands and waters for future generations.”
All the Senate’s Democratic members were joined by 16 Republican members in confirming Regan, who previously worked on environmental and renewable energy issues at the EPA before he took charge of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality.
One of those Republican votes came from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has been critical of the Biden administration’s other environmental policies that she says could harm Alaska’s oil industry and economy. Murkowski’s support for Regan won a thank-you from the group SalmonState.
"The confirmation is a win for Bristol Bay, the world’s greatest sockeye salmon run, which the Obama EPA was working to protect from the proposed Pebble Mine — a massive, open-pit mine and toxic waste dump planned for Bristol Bay’s headwaters,” according to a statement from the group Wednesday.
“After a closed-door meeting with then-Pebble CEO Tom Collier in 2017, Trump’s then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed course, which led to the stripping of the previous EPA’s science-based proposed protections in 2019,” the group said. In contrast, “President Biden, as well, has affirmed that Bristol Bay is ‘no place for a mine.’”
“Tribes, fishermen and Alaskans have made crystal clear that the only way to protect the world’s greatest sockeye salmon run, as well as the way of life, culture, jobs and ecosystem it supports, is for the EPA to use its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to veto Pebble Mine,” said SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol. “We look forward to working with Administrator Regan to finish the job that the Obama/Biden administration started.”