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Know the West

Latest: EPA puts brakes on Pebble Mine proposal

Agency says risks to fisheries and natural resources justify gathering more data.


One of the world’s most valuable salmon fisheries is in Southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay. The proposed Pebble Mine in the bay’s headwaters would extract gold, copper and molybdenum, but could devastate salmon by destroying habitat and spilling toxic mine waste (“Worst place for a major mine?HCN, 11/25/13). In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed restrictions on large-scale mining there, citing environmental risks; in response, mining company Pebble Limited Partnership sued. The 2017 settlement included a promise from the EPA to scrap the proposed restrictions.  


In late January, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that after extensive negative comments from stakeholders, he will leave the Obama-era proposal in place while gathering more information on Pebble’s potential impacts on fisheries and other natural resources. “What (the Trump administration) figured out is that you can’t just immediately reverse actions that were taken by the previous administration,” Bob Irvin, president of the nonprofit group American Rivers, told the Washington Post. “You actually have to be able to justify your decision.”