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Court Ruling Hamstrings EPA Attempts to Block Pebble Mine With Clean Water Act

A judge has issued a ruling that blocks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from using the Clean Water Act to stop Pebble Mine.
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay region from the biggest pit mine in the world have been thwarted at least temporarily by a federal judge.

A court ruling on November 24 addresses just one of three lawsuits the would-be builders of Pebble Mine filed after the EPA announced major restrictions on the project earlier this year. But it potentially undermines the agency’s attempts to protect one of the world’s biggest salmon runs and pristine wilderness areas.

RELATED: Native Alaskans Laud Environmental Protection Agency's Nixing of Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay

In that lawsuit, filed in July after the EPA announced its restrictive measures, Pebble’s developers held that the agency had relied too heavily on anti-mining activists for advice and said there had not been enough transparency. Its lawsuit accused the EPA of failing to practice open government, the Alaska Dispatch reported.

In July, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced that the agency would use its authority under the Clean Water Act to severely limit the mine, according to McClatchy news wire.

The preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Russel Holland blocks the EPA from taking further action against the mine until the lawsuit has run its course in court, the Alaska Dispatch said, fulfilling Pebble’s request that the court halt the EPA’s actions. The judge also said he needed more time to study the paperwork and asked Pebble to rewrite the lawsuit.

“We expect the case may take several months to complete,” said Tom Collier, CEO of Pebble Ltd. Partnership, to the Alaska Dispatch. “This means that for the first time, EPA’s march to preemptively veto Pebble has been halted.”

The court proceedings will resume early in 2015, Alaska Public Radio reported.

RELATED: Company That Designed Burst BC Tailings Pond Was Hired by Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay

For an in-depth analysis, read Federal Judge Sides With Pebble to Halt EPA Mine Action for Now in the Alaska Dispatch. Then watch the below video outlining what is at stake.