DILLINGHAM, AK – Tuesday’s news that the US Army Corps of Engineers will not require public input or scrutiny of major changes to Pebble’s permit application was met with dismay from Bristol Bay fishermen, Tribal leaders, and others, who reiterated the need to stop this rushed permitting process for Pebble’s toxic project at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay fishery.
This comes after the company put forth yet another set of plan changes with no public notice or input. On August 12, the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) delivered a memo to the Army Corps of Engineers with ten changes to its most recent project proposal as part of its Clean Water Act Section 404 permit application. During a Sept. 17 press briefing, the Army Corps affirmed that there would be no additional public process in response to these major changes.
The latest round of changes include a new transportation route, new locations for major water treatment infrastructure at the mine site, and a new location for water used in mine operations to be discharged. These changes are being made with no opportunity for public input, as the draft Environmental Impact Statement comment period ended this past summer, further disenfranchising stakeholders who are dependent on the region’s natural resources and limiting the ability for scientists to adequately review the project.
“These project changes only reinforce that the Pebble Partnership was not prepared to go into permitting and the Corps should not have accepted their incomplete application in the first place,” said Norman Van Vactor, CEO of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. “From day one, the Corps has made exceptions for the Pebble Partnership, lowering the bar for them at the expense of Bristol Bay’s residents, fishermen, tribes, and other stakeholders. We deserve to know what the Pebble Partnership’s real plans are and to have an opportunity to comment on what the impacts will be on our communities, health, and livelihoods. In short, we deserve a fair and transparent process — and this is not it.”
“This changes everything and it changes nothing,” said Rick Halford, a Bristol Bay advocate and former Republican Senate President. “As the EPA’s watershed assessment shows, this project cannot be done without harming the Bristol Bay fishery because of three unchangeable facts: location, type and size. No amount of design modification can change those facts. The Pebble project remains the wrong mine in the wrong place.”
“This design for a segmented small fraction of the real mine mocks the principals of the Environmental Impact Statement process. Its details are so fake that moving a complete port facility fifty shoreline miles up Iliamna lake is considered minor. For the political process to push the professionals in the Army Corps of Engineers to even accept this application as complete is shameful.” Halford concluded.
“Pebble’s significant project changes throughout this process reinforce the certainty that the Army Corps is barreling ahead with this permit application on a political timeline regardless of the fact that other federal agencies have deemed the application and DEIS incomplete and inadequate. Our Tribes and all those paying attention to this process have zero confidence in the Army Corps’ ability to make sound science-based decisions. This permitting process needs to be suspended. Not only is it clear that Pebble cannot safely coexist with our fisheries and way of life but it is also clear that political collusion is pushing Pebble forward at record speeds, with no regard for the science and facts that we were long-promised would be used to assess this project,” said UTBB Executive Director Alannah Hurley.
“This is not about pebble being responsive to concerns. If they were truly listening they would have heard years ago what holds truer than ever today: that the vast majority of Bristol Bay residents and Alaskans do not want this project to move forward. Period. Nothing that I see here makes this a better, safer or more responsible project. Allowing for changes to be made over and over, basically behind closed doors further erodes my trust in the Army Corps of Engineers to make a responsible and science-based decision in a process that has been demonstrated over and over to fail the public’s trust,” said Lindsey Bloom, Program Manager for Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.