Northern Dynasty Minerals reported that the Pebble Limited Partnership lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will move forward. The lawsuit alleged that the EPA violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in advancing its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA) study and subsequent pre-emptive veto process under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.
In a federal court decision, Judge H. Russel Holland rejected an EPA motion to dismiss the Pebble Partnership’s FACA case. Judge Holland granted the EPA’s motion to dismiss claims that the federal agency “established” two of three advisory committees, but allowed the case to proceed regarding claims that the EPA “utilized” these committees. With respect to claims that EPA both “established” and “utilized” a third advisory committee, Holland denied the EPA’s arguments to dismiss.
This leaves in place a preliminary injunction granted in November 2014 that forbids the federal agency from advancing any action under CWA 404(c) affecting the Pebble Project until the FACA case runs its course.
The Pebble Partnership will now seek discovery — to depose federal employees and external third-parties, and otherwise develop additional evidence regarding its allegations that EPA allowed anti-mine activists inappropriate access and influence with respect to the BBWA and subsequent 404(c) process.
“This ruling will help ensure that the truth about the EPA’s actions at Pebble come to light,” said Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen. “We’ve already made a compelling case that the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, which seeks to assess the environmental effects of a hypothetical mine of the EPA’s creation, provides an insufficient scientific basis for the EPA decision-making. We believe the discovery phase and final resolution of the FACA case will expose that the EPA and its allies in the environmental community worked together with a predetermined objective before the BBWA was complete to deny the Pebble project a full, fair and impartial permitting review.”
Thiessen noted that the Pebble Partnership’s FACA lawsuit is one of several initiatives under way to check the EPA’s unprecedented pre-emptive veto action at Pebble. Holland is also adjudicating a Pebble lawsuit alleging the EPA is illegally withholding documents in contravention of the Freedom of Information Act.
In addition, the independent office of the the EPA Inspector General is undertaking a comprehensive review of the EPA actions with respect to Pebble. A parallel investigation led by former Sen. and Secretary of Defense William Cohen is also under way, commissioned by the Pebble Partnership.
“Through one or several of these actions, we remain confident that EPA’s pre-emptive veto will ultimately be stopped, and the Pebble project will be afforded a comprehensive and objective permitting review under the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act including the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement,” Thiessen said.