EPA advances on Pebble mine veto

By Jael Holzman, Ariel Wittenberg | 05/25/2022 08:54 AM EDT

The Biden administration has been under pressure to permanently protect Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay region.

Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed.

Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed. EPA/Flickr

EPA today proposed a new veto of the Pebble mine in Alaska under the Clean Water Act, a rare move that would create permanent environmental protections for Bristol Bay fisheries.

After reviewing nearly two decades of information about the mine proposal, EPA found that the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with mining the copper and gold mineral deposit could harm salmon fisheries.

“EPA is committed to following the science, the law, and a transparent public process to determine what is needed to ensure that this irreplaceable and invaluable resource is protected for current and future generations,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan in a statement.


This veto is a revised version of a proposal that EPA released under former President Barack Obama, which was largely based on public statements Pebble mine backers had made to investors. The Trump EPA scrapped the Obama-era veto in 2019.

Today’s proposed veto considers actual mining plans Pebble submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the permitting process, unlike the Obama administration’s review of the potential project.

The Biden administration has issued its revised proposal under immense pressure from Democratic lawmakers, Alaska Natives and environmentalists to protect the pristine watershed. But opposition to the mine has been bipartisan, with former President Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and Fox News host Tucker Carlson previously urging the Trump administration to veto (Greenwire, Aug. 24, 2020).

Though the Army Corps has already denied a Clean Water Act permit for the project, opponents argued that it has become a political football and more permanent action from EPA is necessary.