EPA to withdraw proposal to reverse Bristol Bay protection

In 2017, the EPA announced a proposal that would reverse an Obama-era protection for the area

By Nicole Karlis
Published January 27, 2018 8:33PM (EST)
  (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-55958p1.html'>Gertjan Hooijer</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(Gertjan Hooijer via Shutterstock)

The latest move made by the Environmental Protection Agency is surely a win for environmental activists.

CNN reports the EPA is withdrawing its proposal to "reverse clean water safeguards" for the Bristol Bay region, which was intended to make room for a gold and copper mine to be built by Pebble Limited Partnership.

The Bristol Bay watershed, which has been protected by an Obama administration EPA protection since 2014, supplies "half of the world's sockeye salmon" according to CNN.

The Obama administration issued the protection after a peer-reviewed study found the region "would result in complete loss of fish habitat due to elimination, dewatering, and fragmentation of streams, wetlands, and other aquatic resources."

The report also revealed that the ecological resources from the area supported 4,000-year-old indigenous cultures and provided 14,000 full-time and part-time jobs.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, according to CNN, ordered staff to reverse the protection after an October 2017 meeting with the CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership, Tom Collier. Once CNN broke the news about the meeting, a letter surfaced—signed by 40 Democratic lawmakers—expressing the threat The Pebble Mine would have on the region.

“The EPA’s plan to reverse clean water safeguards is egregious and inconsistent with science, and frankly, inconsistent with basic logic,” the letter stated. “The Pebble Mine directly threatens our maritime economy and thousands of American jobs that rely on this world-class fishery. We ask you to listen to America’s fishermen and businesses and reverse EPA’s decision to undo strong protections and clean water safeguards in Bristol Bay.”

Pruitt has reportedly had a change of heart though. According to CNN, he said in a statement on Friday:

"It is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there. Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection."

Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a staff writer at Salon. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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Bristol Bay Epa Scott Pruitt Tom Collier