Press Release Oct 9, 2019

Lawsuit Filed Against EPA for its Failure to Protect Alaska Water, Wildlife and Parks

Lawsuit charges EPA with failing to protect Alaska fisheries, wildlife, national parks, jobs, communities, and ways of life from the proposed Pebble mine.

ANCHORAGE (AK)— The National Parks Conservation Association and more than a dozen groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency today for failing to protect Alaska fisheries, wildlife, jobs, communities, and ways of life from the proposed Pebble mine.

The lawsuit is one of three charging the EPA with breaking the law when it withdrew a 2014 Proposed Determination setting out protections for Bristol Bay, Alaska. The EPA abandoned protections for the Bristol Bay watershed in late summer. According to news reports, the decision to withdraw protections occurred after President Trump met with Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy in June.

“The EPA’s attempt to reject its own science-based conclusions is clearly arbitrary and capricious, wholly political, and legally indefensible,” said Katie Strong, senior staff attorney for Trustees for Alaska. “The EPA’s Proposed Determination found that even a small mine in the headwaters of Bristol Bay could devastate the region’s fisheries and communities. Science overwhelmingly supports that conclusion, yet this administration continues to aggressively ignore science and public processes to benefit special interests.”

“The EPA must be held accountable for sacrificing science and ignoring threats to Bristol Bay water, Alaska Native communities and the famous brown bears of Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “We stand with Alaska Native people, fishermen, tourism businesses and conservation partners in demanding that the EPA returns to its mission of protecting the environment.”

“A ‘fair and rigorous’ process means proponents for the proposed Pebble Mine don’t get to toss out scientific studies that show truths they’d rather ignore,” said Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState. “With its mine proposal, Pebble Limited Partnership perpetuates a myth that building a colossal open-pit mine will not have negative impacts on the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery. History and the science say otherwise. Unfortunately, backroom deals and cronyism between political appointees and mining lobbyists have left us with no choice but to petition the courts for relief.”

Today’s litigation comes weeks after Sen. Lisa Murkowski expressed concerns over the scientific and technical deficiencies in the Army Corps’ draft environmental impact statement for Pebble. As chair of a subcommittee, she supported an appropriations bill that encourages agencies to use their enforcement authorities to protect Bristol Bay if the Army Corps fails to fix the flaws and gaps in its analysis.

Trustees for Alaska filed the suit on behalf of 12 clients: The Alaska Center, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Alaska Wilderness League, Cook Inletkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of McNeil River, McNeil River Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, SalmonState, Sierra Club, and Wild Salmon Center.

Bristol Bay groups filed a related lawsuit on Oct. 8, and Trout Unlimited filed one today.

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About the National Parks Conservation Association: For 100 years, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org/100.