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Epa assessment of pebble gets blasted, praised by hundreds atmeeting - DMX Light Controllers Manufa by he ni

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Epa assessment of pebble gets blasted, praised by hundreds atmeeting - DMX Light Controllers Manufa by
Article Posted: 12/14/2013
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Epa assessment of pebble gets blasted, praised by hundreds atmeeting - DMX Light Controllers Manufa

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Hundreds of people filled an Anchorage auditorium on Monday nightto give their view of a controversial draft watershed assessment of Bristol Bay and the massive Pebble Project , a document that may help the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencystop the project before permitting even begins. The state attorney general and the top investigative committee inthe U.S. House of Representatives say the EPA s action ispotentially illegal. For their part, federal officials said thedraft assessment is not a regulatory action, but they say Congressgave the agency the authority under the Clean Water Act topreemptively halt projects that can damage watersheds andfisheries.

The recently released draft assessment found that a large-scale,open-pit copper, gold and molybdenum mine at the headwaters of thetwo largest watersheds in Bristol Bay would hurt salmon even in anideal scenario, even if tailings never leaked. An 86-mile roadwould allow trucks to deliver minerals to Cook Inlet. Pipelinesthat deliver fuel and water would cross 70 streams. Even a 24-hour-long leak of acidic tailings waste into rivers couldhave a devastating effect if it happens at the wrong time, becausetens of thousands of sockeye salmon spawn in concentrated areas.

The EPA considers a small leak to be likely during the 25-to-75-year lifespan of a large-scale mine, said Rick Parkin, head of theassessment for the agency. Less likely -- but more disastrous -- would be an accidentalrelease of just 20 percent of the tailings from behind a dam.Nearly one-third of the Nushagak River salmon run could bedestroyed, he said. The long-running battle over Pebble pits two-world class resourcesagainst each other, with fisherman and environmental groups liningup against pro-development forces. Native villages from the regionshow up on both sides. Bristol Bay is the world's most valuable wild sockeye salmonfishery and produces about half the world's sockeye, the assessmentfound.

On the other hand, Pebble Partnership owners NorthernDynasty Minerals of Canada and Anglo American of London have saidthe mine would create more than 1,000 high-wage, full-time jobs for25 years, as workers process a potential 81 billion pounds ofcopper, 107 million ounces of gold and 5.6 billion pounds ofmolybdenum. The project would be built on state land and could produce morethan 11 billion metric tons of ore, making it the biggest mine ofits kind in North America, the draft assessment found. Draft assessment reviews existing studies The draft assessment came at the request of nine Alaska Nativetribes, including many from the region, as well as the regionalBristol Bay Native Corporation. The EPA did no new research, otherthan interviews with local residents. Instead, it drew on thescientific literature available and plans published by the PebblePartnership, EPA officials said.

The EPA is considering requests, including from state AttorneyGeneral Michael Geraghty, to extend the comment period on the draftassessment from 60 days to 180 days, so it would end Nov. 20instead of July 23. The draft assessment is premature and any impacts should not beconsidered until Pebble Partnership has applied for a permit andsubmitted a proposal to the state, an official with the stateDepartment of Law said in an email to Alaska Dispatch before themeeting. "Although we are greatly concerned that there is no legal authorityfor this assessment, we are evaluating it as thoroughly as possiblegiven the short 60-day review and public comment period," said RuthHamilton Heese, senior assistant attorney general.

Dennis McLerran, EPA regional administrator, told Alaska Dispatchthat the draft assessment could be used in the permitting processor it could be used under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, whichgives EPA ability to preemptively stop projects that would have"unacceptable, adverse" impacts on watersheds. The EPA "will not address use of its regulatory authority until theassessment becomes final and has made no judgment about whether touse that authority," he added.

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