Tags: EPA | overreach | mine | alaska | gold | salmon | clean water act

EPA Accused of Overreach in Alaska Mine Case

By    |   Monday, 16 Feb 2015 06:11 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to employ a rarely used piece of its authority in the coming months to stop a proposed project in Alaska that would unearth an estimated $120 billion worth of gold.

The Washington Post reports the EPA will essentially use a preemptive veto to stop plans to mine the gold in southwestern Alaska. Called the Pebble Mine, the area contains several valuable metals in a mile-thick slice of the earth. Long-term plans say the open-pit mine could eventually have a footprint of seven square miles.

The catch, however, is that the mine sits below the largest sockeye salmon run in the world. The Obama administration has sided with the salmon,  at least for now, and the government is poised to put a stop to the mining before the real work begins.

The area is part of the Bristol Bay Watershed, an environmentally sensitive area that plays such a vital role in the salmon industry that it accounts for half of the world's sockeye supply.

The gold in the mine is in small particles, so the large-scale operation to extract it would involve pulverizing the rock and using chemicals to extract the precious metal. The mine also contains copper and molybdenum, two other metals that carry a heavy price on the market.

Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., a Canadian company, is poised to begin work on the mine, but the EPA wants to stop it from receiving a mining permit for the site.

Critics of the project say the mining operation would damage and/or destroy several of the salmon-rich steams. The other concern is that some of the chemicals could run off into the streams and eventually into Bristol Bay, which sits 150 miles downstream from the proposed site.

Last summer, the EPA said it was proposing restrictions that would, in effect, stop the development of the mine. The agency's position on the matter has the support of Hollywood celebrities, local fisherman, environmentalists, and the majority of Alaska residents.

The EPA is now poised to issue the preemptive veto — a move used just once in 40 years, reports the Post.

Republican lawmakers are crying foul, saying the EPA's promise crosses over the line lawmakers had in mind when the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972.

There are two outstanding lawsuits against the EPA in response to the way it has handled the matter.

According to the Post report, Northern Dynasty Minerals has several documents in its possession that show the EPA coerced local Alaskans to oppose the mine, helping them prepare petitions that helped the agency build support for its veto.

"The EPA doesn't gain any additional authority by using a preemptive veto, and there's no increase in environmental protection," Tom Collier of Northern Dynasty told the Post. "They're doing it so they can avoid the rigor and intensity of a proper review."

Supporters of the mine say the EPA is making a decision before it sees the entire proposal. Northern Dynasty admits that some of the wetlands and streams will be lost, but the company has plans to keep losses at a minimum. The EPA, however, concluded last year the mine would destroy 94 miles of streams and 5,350 acres of other wetlands.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to employ a rarely used piece of its authority in the coming months to stop a proposed project in Alaska that would unearth an estimated $120 billion worth of gold. The Washington Post reports the EPA will essentially...
EPA, overreach, mine, alaska, gold, salmon, clean water act
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2015-11-16
Monday, 16 Feb 2015 06:11 PM
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