Just a few short years ago, it seemed as if recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, conservationists, Alaska's native peoples and more had, after years of tireless advocacy, claimed victory in their battle to prevent the Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska. The Obama administration, after years of scientific examination, economic analysis, consultation with Alaskan communities and leaders and comments from hundreds of thousands of Americans asking the government to stop Pebble Mine, had decided to exercise the EPA's power under the Clean Water Act to permanently restrict mining in Bristol Bay—home to the world's largest run of wild Pacific salmon.
Bristol Bay, the EPA determined, was simply too valuable to risk destroying via the construction of a giant, open-pit mine at its headwaters—too valuable for the 14,000 Alaskan jobs it provides, too valuable for the $1.5 billion it contributes to Alaska's and the United States' economies, too valuable for its sockeye salmon fishery which supplies more sockeye salmon to the world than any other, too valuable for the 30 native cultures that depend on its salmon for survival and their cultural identity, too valuable for its pristine, undisturbed wilderness.
In fact, the EPA decided what virtually everyone—save for a few Bond-style villains heading foreign mining companies, their lobbyists and investors—already knew: that constructing the largest open-pit mine in North America, one of the largest mines in the entire the world, one that would include a massive tailings dam that would need to contain an enormous lake housing 1.1 billion tons of toxic mining waste forever (despite the fact that Pebble is currently projected to only provide jobs for 20 years), in an area prone to massive earthquakes was an incredibly—no, monumentally—stupid idea.
But along with Donald Trump's administration came the appointment of embattled EPA director Scott Pruitt and the agency's new proclamation that it would reverse the Obama administration's decision and allow Pebble Mine's parent company—foreign-owned Northern Dynasty Minerals—to submit permit applications and attempt to move the Pebble Mine forward.
And so it has. After years of stalling and delay, Pebble Limited Partnership submitted a plan that—while incomplete and lacking important details—confirmed most everyone's worst fears. Plans that showed that Pebble Mine would destroy 21 miles of salmon streams and 3,000 acres of wetlands, construct the aforementioned massive tailings storage facility plus other associated treatment ponds, dams and embankments, create a 230-megawatt power plant 15 miles upwind from Lake Clark National Park, create an 83-mile long private road with over 200 stream crossings, lay 188 miles of overland natural gas pipeline through sensitive habitat and so on.
And again, as part of Pebble's permit application process, all Americans are afforded the opportunity to speak up. To speak up for wild salmon, for recreational anglers, for commercial fishermen, for Alaskan native cultures and, primarily, for common goddamned sense. Each time we Americans have had the chance to, we've spoken up en masse—overwhelmingly and almost exclusively sending the same message: No Pebble Mine.
Do it again. Do it today. Because today is the last day. Stand up for Bristol Bay.