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ANCHORAGE, AK – Alaska business owners and sportsmen are frustrated and deeply disappointed that senators from West Virginia and Louisiana are threatening Alaska’s greatest salmon fishery and tens of thousands of jobs with radical legislation that guts the Clean Water Act.
Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and David Vitter (R-LA), typically in tune with sportsman’s concerns in their own states, are ignoring a broad-cross section of Alaska Natives, fishermen, hunters and anglers, and business owners, as well as hundreds of thousands of Americans who want immediate Clean Water Act Protection for Bristol Bay. This fatally flawed bill would eliminate the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska from mining development that would likely harm the world-class sockeye salmon fishery.
Though unnamed at this point, the bill will closely resemble the “Regulatory Fairness Act of 2014,” which directly impacts the Environmental Protection Agency’s work to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska from the Pebble Mine. After nearly a decade of the Pebble proposal looming in the region, this bill could force the people of Bristol Bay to wait for years more for EPA to exercise its clear Clean Water Act 404(c) authority in Bristol Bay by narrowly restricting when such authority could be applied.
“Alaskan jobs are being threatened by two Outside Senators who are trying to limit the protections thousands of Alaskans requested for Bristol Bay,” said Tim Bristol, Manager of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “This bill directly negates the section of the Clean Water Act that sportsmen, commercial fishermen, tribes and Alaskans have asked to be applied to protect salmon now, and would force us to wait for the Pebble Partnership to file a permit whenever the political winds are in their favor.”
“Despite the fact that 60 percent of Alaskans are opposed to the Pebble Mine and support EPA action in Bristol Bay, these Senators insist on putting the desires of junior mining interests from the Cayman Islands and other foreign countries ahead of the needs of thousands of Alaskans who depend on the wild sockeye salmon of Bristol Bay for employment, food and the foundation of an ancient yet thriving culture,” said Bristol.
Bristol said, “We are asking Senators Vitter and Manchin to reconsider their sponsorship of this legislation, which has the potential inflict so much damage on so many of their fellow Americans.”
A broad cross-section of Americans supported the EPA’s proposed protections for Bristol Bay this summer during an open comment period on the Agency’s proposal. Then, in November, Alaskans passed a ballot measure in every precinct of the state that would require additional oversight and approval for mining projects in Bristol Bay.
“We hope our leaders in state prioritize Alaskan jobs and the clear desires of their constituents to protect this region, not follow the lead of Outside Senators and a foreign company that may be out of touch with what is important to Alaskans,” said Bristol.
The sustainable fishery in Bristol Bay provides 14,000 jobs and an economy valued at $1.5 billion. In February of 2014, the EPA released a clear and peer-reviewed scientific report showing that the Pebble Mine proposal could threaten the resource that sustains the thriving economy of this region.