WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would resume the process of withdrawing the proposed determination it issued in 2014 for the Pebble mine project in southwest Alaska. The agency also announced that it would initiate a process under Section 404(q) of the Clean Water Act to elevate its environmental concerns on the project, which is under review by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“I have never supported preemptive restrictions for any project in Alaska,” Murkowski said. “It is inappropriate for an agency to prejudge a project years before its developer has filed a permit application. Allowing agencies to expand their authority in this manner would be a dangerous precedent that undermines confidence in the normal, well-established permitting process.”
In light of today’s announcement, Murkowski urged EPA to make any concerns it has known to the Army Corps as that agency considers whether to grant the Pebble project a Section 404 dredge and fill permit under the Clean Water Act.
“I continue to reserve judgment about the Pebble mine and am closely following the permitting process to determine whether it can avoid harming Bristol Bay’s world-class fishery,” Murkowski said. “EPA’s intent to elevate the environmental concerns for this project is the right decision and will help ensure they are fully addressed. I look forward to reviewing EPA’s comments, as well as the comments being filed by Alaskans and scientists.”
In July 2014, EPA proposed restrictions designed to limit the scope of the Pebble project, before its developers had filed a permit application or entered the permitting process. A federal court issued a preliminary injunction halting further work on the proposed restrictions in November 2014, and EPA initially proposed to withdraw them in July 2017.
The Army Corps of Engineers released its draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Pebble project in February 2019. Murkowski urged the Corps to grant a 30-day extension to the initial 90-day comment period for that document and to redouble its efforts on government-to-government consultation with Alaska Natives who live in the Bristol Bay region. The Corps granted the extension, providing Alaskans with the ability to comment through July 1, 2019. EPA is expected to file its formal comments before that deadline, as well.
Murkowski is Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee.