The public comment period on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to withdraw Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay closed on Oct. 17. Even as the EPA turns its back on Bristol Bay, the people of the region came out in force again to protect and defend their home from the Pebble mine.
In fact, Alaskans and Americans overwhelmingly spoke out in favor of the protections contained in the EPA’s own 2014 Proposed Determination. The agency’s scientific assessment—peer-reviewed twice–concluded that a mine of any size would be catastrophic to the Bristol Bay watershed and fisheries.
Bristol Bay relies on salmon
The people of Bristol Bay have been saying “no” to the Pebble mine for over 15 years. They want their homes, livelihoods, and ways of life respected. They want salmon protected for generations to come.
Yet when Bristol Bay communities lawfully requested the EPA to assess the mine’s potential harm to the region, the foreign company behind Pebble attacked. Dozens of Alaskans who spoke out in opposition to the Pebble mine endured harassment in the form of subpoenas in a lawsuit.
EPA turns its back on Americans
Back then, the EPA had spent three years assessing the science and engaging in a public process that included eight hearings and more than a million comments nationwide—the overwhelming majority supporting protections for Bristol Bay.
So why did the EPA ask for comments again this year?
Pruitt panders to a foreign mining company
Months after his appointment, EPA director Scott Pruitt began the process of scrapping the Proposed Determination, along with the science and public process, after a scant 30 minutes with the Pebble CEO.
Let’s say that again: Pruitt ditched science and years of agency work after a half-hour meeting with a mining insider who will make millions of dollar closing a Pebble deal.
Bristol Bay deserves more than a shove out the door
The people of Bristol Bay deserve more than a shove out the door, and so do Americans. Bristol Bay nurtures the largest wild sockeye salmon fishery in the world. It generates and sustains thousands and thousands of jobs. It provides traditional food to the people who have lived there for centuries.
Bristol Bay may appear small compared to the forces that want to exploit the region at the expense of its people and salmon, but the Bristol Bay community is mighty.
Read the comments that Trustees for Alaska submitted on behalf of its client, Nunamta Aulukestai, a coalition of Alaska Native Village corporations and tribes in the Bristol Bay region.