Biden administration takes action to protect Bristol Bay in Alaska

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration took the first steps on Thursday that would allow it to begin the process of protecting Alaska’s p...


WASHINGTON – The Biden administration took the first steps on Thursday that would allow it to begin the process of protecting Alaska’s pristine wilderness Bristol Bay, one of the most valuable sockeye salmon fisheries in the world which also sits atop huge deposits of copper and gold long coveted by mining companies.

The administration filed a petition with the United States District Court for Alaska to overturn a Trump-era ruling that removed environmental protections from Bristol Bay, about 200 miles south- west of Anchorage. If the court agrees, the administration could start developing permanent protections for the area.

In a statement, the Environmental Protection Agency argued that President Donald J. Trump’s administration acted illegally in 2019 by dismissing fears that a gold and copper mine project could threaten fisheries, withdrawing Federal protections at Bristol Bay.

The move will have little immediate effect as the Trump administration ultimately denied an essential permit for the project, known as the Pebble mine, in 2020. This came after President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, who both enjoyed hunting and fishing in the region, joined with environmental activists and indigenous tribes to oppose the mine in an unlikely coalition.

But environmental activists noted that the decision to reject the permit by the US Army Corps of Engineers was under appeal by Pebble Limited Partnership, with the company seeking to build the mine. The company wants to dig a pit more than a square mile and a third of a mile deep, to get the metals, estimated at at least $ 300 billion. The project would include the construction of a 270-megawatt power station and a 165-mile gas pipeline, as well as an 82-mile road and large tailings dams, some of which are toxic. It would also be necessary to dredge a port in Iliamna Bay.

At the moment, nothing is in place to stop another attempted mining project in the region, although the Biden administration’s request to court is seen as a first step in changing that.

“I am pleased that the Biden administration has taken this important step to ensure the continued protection of this unprecedented watershed and the salmon and the people it supports,” Washington State Governor Jay Inslee said, a Democrat, in a statement to The Times. “Mining in the Bristol Bay watershed has reportedly caused irreparable damage to the world’s largest sockeye fishery. “

Federal and state agencies have found that the proposed pebble mine, which would be located in two watersheds that feed rivers spawning fish, would cause permanent damage. Scientists say it would destroy more than 130 miles of stream, 2,800 acres of wetlands and 130 acres of open water.

During the election campaign, President Biden promised to “listen to scientists and protect Bristol Bay”.

Praising the region as the basis of the native Alaskan way of life, a popular destination for anglers and the source of half of the world’s sockeye salmon, Biden said: “It is not a place for a mine. “

President Barack Obama’s administration concluded in 2014, after a three-year scientific review, that the Pebble Mine project could have “catastrophic” effects, including “complete loss of fish habitat due to disposal. , the drying up and fragmentation of rivers, wetlands, and other aquatic resources ”in parts of Bristol Bay.

Mr. Obama’s EPA issued a proposed determination under a provision of the Clean Water Act that would have acted as a veto and effectively banned mining in the region. But the agency faced several lawsuits from the Pebble Limited Partnership, and when Mr. Trump took office, the decision was still not finalized.

In 2019, the Trump administration, which by then had overturned nearly 100 environmental regulations, withdrew the Obama-era designation altogether and denounced it as “obsolete” – citing lawsuits filed by the Pebble Mine company as the one of the important new developments.

Mike Heatwole, spokesperson for the Pebble Mine Partnership, said in a statement that the company intends to monitor EPA actions to determine the impact on the project and the licensing process.

“As the Biden administration seeks to reduce carbon emissions for power generation, it should recognize that such a change will require much more mineral production, especially copper,” he wrote. “The Pebble Project remains an important national source for the minerals necessary for the administration to meet its green energy goals.”

In a statement, EPA administrator Michael Regan said if the court rules in favor of the Biden administration, the agency will announce a timeline for resuming a process to protect Bristol Bay development under the Clean Water Act.

“What is at stake is to prevent pollution that would disproportionately impact the natives of Alaska,” Mr. Regan said, “and to protect a sustainable future for the most productive salmon fishery in the world. ‘North America.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden administration takes action to protect Bristol Bay in Alaska
Biden administration takes action to protect Bristol Bay in Alaska
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