As key state water permit decision looms for Pebble, fishermen fear pro-mine political appointees, not science or law, will steer decision
Commercial Fisherman for Bristol Bay
Bristol Bay fishermen today expressed concern that the deep pro-Pebble mine bias of the Dunleavy Administration is about to show itself again as the Department of Environmental Conservation considers a key water quality permit for the controversial mega mine.
Over the last two years, Governor Dunleavy has directly cut and pasted Pebble talking points into official state letters calling for the removal of Environmental Protection Agency initiated safeguards for Bristol Bay wetlands and waters, he has appointed a Pebble employee to represent Bristol Bay on the Board of Fish and he has put a former Pebble lobbyist Jason Brune, in charge of the key state water quality permit for the Pebble project.
As a result of this “stacking of the deck” in favor of the potentially destructive mine, Bristol Bay fishermen and allies are requesting that Commissioner Brune, formerly the Government Relations Manager in Alaska for former Pebble investor Anglo-American and Executive Director of the advocacy group Resource Development Council, recuse himself from all Pebble mine related decision-making.
“Just as Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler has recused himself due to lobbying ties with Pebble, Mr. Brune owes it to Alaskans, the vast majority of whom are against Pebble, to recuse himself due to his clear conflict of interest and inability to objectively evaluate this project,” said Katherine Carscallen, Director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.
“Alaskans deserve a process we can trust and with Jason Brune at the helm of Department of Environmental Conservation we will never have that. Without his recusal Alaskans are being denied their right to a fair and science-based process that protects our interests and can be trusted,” said Meghan Gervais, a longtime Bristol Bay Fisherman in Homer.
When the US Army Corps of Engineers released the Final EIS for Pebble Mine it started the 30 day clock on the State of Alaska’s one and only chance to exercise oversight and authority over the major federal permit to dredge and fill waters and wetlands of the United States at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. The Department of Environmental Conservation wields the authority under Federal law not only to regulate discharges and enforce water quality protection standards, but is also the one state agency to have veto authority over Federal 404 permitting in the form of what is called the 401 Certificate of Reasonable Assurance. Pebble applied in November 2017 for its 404 permit, which is now being finalized by US Army Corps of Engineers.
“There is no way that the Department of Environmental Conservation can ‘reasonably assure’ us that Pebble will meet Alaska’s water quality standards. There is no mine on Earth of this size or type that has ever succeeded in not contaminating surrounding waters and no reason to believe that Pebble will be any different,” said Robin Samuelson, a Bristol Bay fisherman in Dillingham. “Adding insult to injury is the fact that Jason Brune, a former Pebble employee whose appointment has been a tremendous benefit for Pebble, has the ear of Alaska’s Governor Mike Dunleavy, another Alaska official who is known to advocate for Pebble despite the fact that the vast majority of Alaskans oppose the project.”
Background: Under section 401 of the Clean Water Act the State has express authority to approve or deny a federal permit based on whether the proposed activity will comply with Alaska’s water quality standards.
About Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay
Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay is a national coalition of fishermen working to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska and the 14,000 jobs, $500 million in annual income, and $1.5 billion in economic activity that Bristol Bay’s wild salmon provide.