Eight days remain in the EPA's open public comment period regarding the feasibility of mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska. To date, 523,320 have been received. While there is no question that over half a million comments represents a large number of individuals making their opinion heard on the issue, more voices are needed. The proponents of mining in Bristol Bay continue intense lobbying efforts to prevent the EPA from exercising its power to preemptively veto large-scale open pit mining in Bristol Bay.
Earlier this week, Pebble Limited Partnership CEO John Shively criticized the EPA, expressing doubts that the assessment process was being handled fairly. Shively was smugly critical of the conclusions in the EPA's latest draft of its assessment of risks associated with projects such as Pebble Mine, calling the EPA out for having drawn conclusions about the mining process without having a mining plan to review. Shively, however, failed to acknowledge that although the PLP has sunk almost $600 million dollars into researching and preparation for the Pebble Mine site, they have refused to publicly release a mining plan, despite numerous and repeated requests that they do so.
Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski was sharply critical of PLP's failure to release a plan. In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, Murkowski noted "As a policymaker who spends most of my days saying there is a process we need to follow, I have a tough time telling the state to chop it off at the knees. But I'll tell you one thing: Pebble isn't doing itself any favors by not giving more definition to its plans. They have documents to the moon, but no images or mine plans. The best thing Pebble could do is lay it on the table so we have something real to deal with.
Shively also suggested that outgoing EPA director Lisa Jackson was responsible for what he perceives as bias in the assessment process, noting that he expects Gina McCarthy -- Barak Obama's yet-to-be confirmed pick to lead the EPA -- will "go back and look at things" in regards to the agencies recent actions concerning the Pebble project. Shively went on to say that, despite the EPA's recent assessment -- which paints a grim picture for the salmon of Bristol Bay in the wake of projects like Pebble Mine -- he expects to be in permitting by the end of the year and that "someday this mine will be developed".
Perhaps most striking were Shively's comments questioning the authority of the EPA to prevent mining in Bristol Bay under the powers granted to it by the Clean Water Act. While he acknowledged that he believed the EPA did have the power to veto a specific mining proposal, he noted that the PLP had questions about the breadth of that authority, possibly suggesting that -- even if the EPA does decide to exercise a 403-b veto, PLP may pose legal challenges to any action.
Whatever the case may be, foreign private interests that seek to place profit over the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Americans and the safety of Bristol Bay's pristine environment and salmon habitat remain hard at work and determined to see the Pebble Mine enter permitting and eventually become a reality. And, the science is clear: if the Pebble Mine goes forward, it will destroy the salmon habitat of Bristol Bay. The rest of us, those that stand to benefit in no way from extracting billions pounds of copper from the ground -- a resource which exists in bountiful proportions in countless less environmentally sensitive areas outside of Bristol Bay, Alaska -- need to do our duty and make our voices heard in defense of an irreplaceable, renewable resource that has a profoundly positive impact on the lives of real Americans and is part of our national heritage.
If you haven't already made your voice heard, you can do so here. If you know others that haven't made their voices heard, urge them to do so. The threat posed by Pebble Mine touches virtually everyone in this country, not just fishermen.