Groups Defend EPA's Decision on the Proposed Pebble Mine

Conservation Groups Defend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Decision on the Proposed Pebble Mine

Earthjustice and NRDC join with Trustees for Alaska on behalf of 15 groups to defend Bristol Bay from the Proposed Pebble Mine

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Today a coalition of conservation organizations filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to defend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision that protects Bristol Bay from harmful mines, like the proposed Pebble Mine, under Section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act.

EPA’s decision in January 2023 blocking discharges related to the proposed copper and gold mine was a hard won victory for Bristol Bay Tribes, commercial and sport fishers, conservation groups, Alaskans and many others who have been fighting for more than 20 years to prevent the mine from being built in southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, home to the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.

Despite continued strong opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine within the Bristol Bay region, across Alaska and nationally, the mine’s developers – Pebble Limited Partnership and its parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. – filed a lawsuit in March to try to overturn the EPA’s veto. The State of Alaska separately filed a lawsuit challenging EPA’s decision in April. In a highly unusual and aggressive move, the State of Alaska first tried to leapfrog the lower courts by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse EPA’s decision. After the Supreme Court denied that request in January, the State filed its lawsuit in federal district court in Alaska, joining with the mine’s developers against the wishes of most Alaskans who oppose the mine.

Pebble Limited Partnership and the State of Alaska also filed separate claims in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. demanding compensation in excess of $700 billion because of EPA’s decision.

The coalition of 15 conservation groups, represented by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Earthjustice and Trustees for Alaska, joins the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Native Corporation and other Bristol Bay groups, businesses and commercial fishermen who also filed today to intervene in support of the EPA’s action.

Trout Unlimited, representing itself, also filed a motion to intervene, making it the third party to seek intervention against the mine developers’ renewed attempt to overturn EPA’s decision.

In a separate but related effort to make Bristol Bay protections more durable, U.S. Representative Mary Peltola from Alaska earlier this month introduced federal legislation, the Bristol Bay Protection Act. If that legislation were to pass, it would prevent the mine from being built without a further act of Congress.

Below are statements from NRDC, Earthjustice, and the three conservation organizations that
Earthjustice represents – Earthworks, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biological

“EPA’s decision to prohibit the destructive Pebble Mine is consistent with the Clean Water Act, supported by exhaustive administrative and scientific review, and overwhelmingly endorsed by millions of Americans, including over 80 percent of the people of Bristol Bay,” said Joel Reynolds, Western Director and Senior Attorney for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “This destructive project has always been the wrong mine in the wrong place, and EPA has definitively confirmed it. For a decade and a half, NRDC urged the agency to do just that, and we look forward now to defending the veto in federal court.”

“Northern Dynasty is tilting at windmills trying to resurrect this disastrous mine,” said Bonnie Gestring, Northwest Program Director at Earthworks. “We are proud to join in support of Bristol Bay Tribes and commercial fishermen to defend the EPA’s decision to protect the thriving Bristol Bay salmon fishery that fuels the economy and feeds the nation.”

“The EPA rightly decided that the devastating risks Pebble Mine poses to Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed are far too great,” said Cooper Freeman, Alaska director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Pebble Mine proponents have tried for two decades to justify destroying the earth’s greatest sockeye salmon run, which is also a haven for brown bears and other wildlife, and it has failed miserably. We’ll defend the Bristol Bay ecosystem for as long as we have to, and I’m looking forward to putting the terrible idea of mining in this precious watershed behind us once and for all.”

“Friends of the Earth is proud to fight alongside our environmental, fishing, and Indigenous allies at every stage to ensure that Pebble Mine remains a distant memory,” said Hallie Templeton, Legal Director for Friends of the Earth. “EPA’s denial of a Clean Water Act permit for this environmentally disastrous project was nothing short of legally sound. We will do everything we can to help defend this decision amid Northern Dynasty’s baseless lawsuit.”

“Earthjustice is honored to stand with Tribes and other regional Bristol Bay leaders and to work with NRDC, Trustees for Alaska and the conservation groups we represent as we continue to defend this critical watershed and the people, fish and wildlife it supports,” said Earthjustice Senior Attorney Erin Colón. “The mine’s developers and the State are wasting time and the public’s money by trying to resurrect a failed project that should have never been proposed in the first place, but we’ll keep fighting until Bristol Bay is permanently protected.”

Communications contact: Brittany Miller, [email protected], (202) 222-0746

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