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DILLINGHAM, AK –Bristol Bay leaders are outraged by the Pebble Limited Partnership and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) settlement concerning the proposed Clean Water Act protections for the Bristol Bay watershed.
In 2010, Bristol Bay’s tribes, joined by Native corporations, commercial fishermen, the sports and recreation industry, and other supporters petitioned the EPA to protect Bristol Bay from the risks posed by the Pebble mine—risks to our salmon, waters, people, and economy. EPA responded by undertaking a multi-year, peer-reviewed scientific study that was subject to extensive public participation. As a result, EPA proposed common sense protections for the Bristol Bay watershed supported by millions of Americans. Sadly, with today’s announcement, these protections, have fallen victim to the petty, partisan politics of our day. The leaders of Bristol Bay issued the following statements at a press conference regarding the settlement:
Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives Bryce Edgmon said, “I am keenly disappointed…Backing away from the agency’s painstaking work and analysis of the 404(c) issue following years of work to carefully construct a position that was not only was supported by a number of tribes in the region but once again the majority of the people in the region. The people of the Bristol Bay region do not need this kind of stress hanging over our heads continuing on year after year.”
Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation CEO & President, Norman Van Vactor weighed in saying, “You might recall the process of the original 404(c). There were literally dozens of public hearings. Thousands of people in Bristol Bay testified and spoke. Tens of thousands of people in the state of Alaska spoke. Hundreds of thousands of people in the US spoke. Compare that to what appears to be happening in the last couple weeks closed door meetings between bureaucrats and foreign mining executives. Closed to all of us. And, a decision that will affect our livelihoods and our homes. We will do whatever it takes to protect Bristol Bay.”
Curyung Tribal Council Chief & Commercial Fisherman Robin Samuelsen stated, “We will continue to fight Pebble for as long as Pebble wants to build a mine in Bristol Bay. I’m 66 years old and I’ll give it my last breath. My two grandsons here, who both testified in Washington D.C., when I’m gone there going be stronger than grandpa ever was fighting against Pebble. And their kids are going fight Pebble. We and Bristol Bay will never give up.”
Bristol Bay Native Corporation Chairman of the Board Joseph Chythlook stated, said at the press conference, “For more than a decade Pebble has created stress and uncertainty among our people and businesses. Bristol Bay needs and deserves certainty that our sustainable industries and world-class salmon fishery will continue- any settlement between EPA and Pebble moves us further away from that potential result.”
During the conference, Bristol Bay Native Corporation Chairman of the Land Committee Russell Nelson said, while responding to the question of Pebble’s recent assertions that it will seek a small mine size, “Pebble can tell you what they want, you just need to look on their website, they’re going to mine it until the end until the last dollar until they can extract the last dollar out of that resource. They can tell you it’s small, but look at the cost of developing. They need to get their money out. They’re in it for the money.”
United Tribes of Bristol Bay Executive Director Alannah Hurley stated:
“Our region couldn’t be more united in our effort to protect Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine. I sit here today with tribal, Native Corporation, commercial fishermen, economic development and political leaders of Bristol Bay united to protect our home and in continued opposition to the Pebble mine. If there’s one thing I want you all leave here with today, it’s this: Pebble may have its short-term victory today. But, we as indigenous people, have been on this land for over 10,000 years and we’re not going anywhere.”
Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of Our Land) Spokesperson Sharon Clark said, “We are here to give a voice to our region. We know what this fight is about. Protecting our home. Protecting our culture. Protecting our food. The Pebble mine PR people will talk about jobs and salmon and culture, too, but make no mistake. They are here to make money. They are here to take what they want and then leave. They will not protect our salmon, our culture and our way of life. If EPA settles today it will be disrespecting everything it gathered from our communities. It will be disrespecting science. It will be disrespecting hundreds of thousands of comments saying yes to Bristol Bay and no to Pebble. It is throwing out the fact that Pebble will destroy Bristol Bay. We are the protectors of our home. And we are not going anywhere. We have said no to this mine for over ten years. Our ancestors have always thought generations ahead and our fight against Pebble is no different- we will stay unified. We will say no to Pebble Mine today, tomorrow, and at every turn.”
Bristol Bay Native Association CEO Ralph Andersen spoke of Scott Pruitts lack of discussion with Alaskans, saying, “Two EPA Administrators visited our region, heard our voices and our concerns. President Obama came to Dillingham, he met with us and saw our region and our fisheries firsthand. EPA Administrator Pruitt has not even bothered to have any discussions or invite us into any conversations into what EPA changes are being planned four our region- that shows disrespect. What you’ve heard today and what you’ve heard from our region in the past isn’t changing- we are resolute in our unity against the Pebble Mine, this types of mining threaten our land, our water, our fish, and our wildlife. Subsistence not an abstract concept. Subsistence is our way of life.”
Nondalton Tribal Council President William Evanoff spoke of Pebble’s claims of support from Alaska communities, pointing out, “We’ve been fighting for over 10 years to protect our land, water, fish, and animals- they don’t have a voice in any of this and we have to be their voice. Pebble claims they have wide support throughout the communities closest to the mine and I can tell you that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Nondalton is the closest village to the Pebble site –our people will be most impacted if Pebble is allowed to develop. I’m here today to tell you today that Pebble’s lies don’t fit the facts. Our Tribe has never supported Pebble and does not support this project. Do not be fooled by Pebble’s attempts to mislead the public. When our way of life and everything we hold sacred it at risk we know what we are doing is right fighting this mine- our future generations are depending on us.”
You can find full audio of the press conference by clicking HERE.