Yesterday (January 31, 2023), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a preemptive veto under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for the Pebble project in Alaska. The Final Determination limits the disposal of dredged and fill material associated with developing the Pebble project. It not only rejects what the Pebble Partnership proposed in its 404 permit application, it prevents any future development of the Pebble deposit.
“Today’s action by the EPA to preemptively veto the proposed Pebble Project is unlawful and unprecedented. For well over a decade, we have argued that fair treatment under the rules and regulations of the U.S should be followed for Pebble or any other development project,” Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively said. “Unfortunately, the Biden EPA continues to ignore fair and due process in favor of politics. This preemptive action against Pebble is not supported legally, technically, or environmentally. As such, the next step will likely be to take legal action to fight this injustice.”
The Final Determination prohibits the specification of certain “waters of the United States” in the South Fork Koktuli River and North Fork Koktuli River watersheds as disposal sites for the discharge of dredged or fill material for the construction and routine operation of the mine plan described in the Pebble Partnership’s June 8, 2020, CWA Section 404 Permit application, as well as future proposals to construct and operate a mine to develop the Pebble deposit that would result in the same or greater levels of loss or change to aquatic resources.
“All project proponents deserve a fair and objective review,” said Mark Compton, executive director for the American Exploration & Mining Association. “[This] is a political decision that prevents an objective review from happening. It sets a harmful precedent, creates significant regulatory uncertainty, and diminishes the investment attractiveness of the United States at a time when we need more domestic mineral production.”
“The U.S. mining industry is the safest, most environmentally responsible mining industry in the world,” Compton said. “Given our Nation’s need for a strong domestic mineral supply, and the proven benefits that modern mining provides to local communities, the Biden administration should encourage rather than block the development of domestic minerals.”