The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposal to block mining projects in Alaska’s Bristol Bay permanently, moving to protect the watershed’s bountiful salmon population over the interests of miners.
If successful, the EPA’s restriction would kill plans for the development of Pebble Mine, a massive, open-pit gold and copper mining project in the area that has sparked years of vigorous opposition from local tribes and fishermen.
The EPA first announced the proposal Wednesday morning, saying it filed the proposal using authorities granted through the Clean Water Act Section 404(c), which seeks to prohibit wetland areas from being filled with dredged or other materials.
“The Bristol Bay watershed is a shining example of how our nation’s waters are essential to healthy communities, vibrant ecosystems, and a thriving economy,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in the statement.
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President Joe Biden has opposed the Pebble Mine project, which has for years been harshly opposed by environmental groups and Alaskan native interest groups.
Last fall, EPA officials filed a court motion seeking to block further development of Pebble Mine.
Biden signaled in the final stretch of his 2020 presidential campaign that he would shutter the mine, pointing to the initiative the Obama EPA took against it and promising to "listen to the scientists and experts to protect Bristol Bay."
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In its statement announcing the proposed veto, the EPA said it will solicit public comments beginning in June and written submissions through July 5.