House bill would cripple EPA's authority under the Clean Water Act and clear the Pebble Mine for approval

Representative Tom Rice (R-S.C.) recently introduced a bill that would gut provisions of the Clean Water Act and give the controversial Pebble Mine the go-ahead.

It's another self-interested, polluter-driven attack on clean water in this country - a cynical attempt by polluters who want to enrich themselves by impoverishing future generations. There is no resource today more valuable than water, and the Clean Water Act is (and has been for 43 years) the backstop for its protection. This legislation would weaken the law in ways that would threaten critical water resources in this country.

For instance, tucked into H.R. 4149 is a provision that would eliminate Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, essentially nullifying EPA's ability to establish protections or restrictions for dredge and fill projects that would pose "unacceptable adverse effects" like the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Bristol Bay's world-famous salmon runs produce half of the planet's sockeye salmon. 30 to 50 million fish return to the watershed every year to spawn, supporting a $1.5 billion annual commercial fishery that employs 14,000 people, valuable sports fishing, and invaluable subsistence fishing.

Salmon in Bristol Bay are not only the economic backbone but also the lifeblood of the region. Salmon have sustained Alaska Natives nutritionally, culturally and spiritually for thousands of years and give life to a wide variety of wildlife such as bears, eagles, whales and seals.

EPA conducted a three year scientific study of the effects of large-scale mining like the Pebble Mine on Bristol Bay, which included conducting two rounds of peer review, engaging the local and broader public, and reviewing over 1.1 million public comments. EPA's rigorous, comprehensive study concluded that "mining of the scale contemplated at the Pebble deposit would result in significant and unacceptable adverse effects to important fishery areas in the [Bristol Bay] watershed." EPA found that the Pebble Mine would have "significant" and even "catastrophic" effects on the region, including the destruction of up to 94 miles of streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands and other waters.

This is exactly the type of devastation that Section 404(c) was designed to prevent. EPA has used its 404(c) authority judiciously - only 13 times over the past 43 years. But instead of following the science and the law, Congress is proposing to permanently gut the Clean Water Act and give industry a license to pollute.

H.R. 4149 ignores the will of a broad coalition of Alaska Natives, fishermen, hunters and anglers, business owners, and conservationists - and hundreds of thousands of others - who petitioned EPA to protect Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine. Pebble Mine is opposed by over 65% of Alaskans, 77% of Americans in the lower 48 states, and more than 80% of the residents of Bristol Bay.

Make no mistake, H.R. 4149 is a direct attack on the Clean Water Act, Bristol Bay, and the people, wildlife, and 14,000 fish-related jobs that Bristol Bay supports -- and it must not stand. Click here to stop the Pebble Mine.

Related Blogs