Pebble Lawsuits Begin to Pile Up
Trustees for Alaska’s attorneys continue to defend Bristol Bay from the threats of a large-scale mine with the potential to destroy the world’s largest salmon fishery.
Earlier this summer Pebble Limited Partnership and the State of Alaska filed lawsuits challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to determine whether mining of the scale and type proposed by Pebble will pose unacceptable impacts to the environment prior to Pebble submitting its own permit applications. Trustees for Alaska, representing Nunamta Aulukestai in support of EPA, filed a motion to dismiss the case along with four other groups: United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Trout Unlimited and the Natural Resources Defense Council. In the motion we pointed out that the court cannot hear the case until EPA concludes its review and makes a final determination.
At the core of the case is whether EPA has the authority to use section 404(c), a provision in the Clean Water Act, to stop or limit a project before an actual permit has been filed. EPA has rarely used its 404(c) authority since the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972. The challenge brought forward by Pebble will have impacts beyond Bristol Bay whichever way the judge decides.
Pebble and the State of Alaska also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking the court to stop EPA from moving forward with the 404(c) determination while the lawsuit remains in court. If US District Court Judge H. Russel Holland does not dismiss the case, he has indicated he will treat the ruling on the preliminary injunction motion as a decision on the merits. Whether the judge decides to dismiss the case or decides the case on the merits, his next ruling will be the district court’s final decision in the case.
With the ink barely dry in the first Pebble lawsuit against EPA, Pebble Limited Partnership filed a new lawsuit September 3rd. This time they claim the agency violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
That lawsuit is yet another attempt by Pebble to overturn EPA’s authority to limit or stop a large-scale mine in the Bristol Bay watershed. In its second lawsuit, Pebble is attacking the process through which EPA created its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, the twice scientifically peer reviewed document that was used as the basis for EPA’s 404(c) Proposed Determination.