Staggering Public Support to Protect Bristol Bay, AK
On the sixth anniversary of President Obama’s visit to Bristol Bay, the message to EPA is clear: Pebble Mine must be stopped, and Bristol Bay must be permanently protected
The numbers are in—again—and show unwavering public support for EPA to protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine.
Those numbers were released today by United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Native Association, and Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation to celebrate the sixth anniversary of President Obama’s trip to Bristol Bay.
President Obama visited Bristol Bay on September 2, 2015, calling it one of the United States’ “most important natural resources.”
“[I]t’s so critical that we make sure that we protect this incredible natural resource, not just for the people whose livelihood depends on it, but for the entire country,” the President remarked from Kanakanak Beach in Dillingham, AK.
Bristol Bay is home to the largest sockeye salmon stronghold on the planet, where a record breaking 65 million sockeye returned in 2021 alone. Bristol Bay is also an economic, cultural, and ecological powerhouse that generates $2.2 billion annually, supports 15,000 jobs, provides 57 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon, and sustains indigenous communities. Yet the Pebble Mine—a gigantic gold and copper mine proposed at the headwaters of Bristol Bay—would threaten it all.
This is not the first time EPA has heard from the public about Pebble.
When EPA first proposed protections for Bristol Bay in 2014, it did so only after conducting a three-year, twice peer reviewed scientific assessment concluding that the Pebble Mine would cause irreparable harm to the Bristol Bay watershed. As part of that process, EPA solicited two rounds of public comments, which generated more than 1.1 million individual comments. During the first comment period, over 90 percent of the 233,000 comments received supported EPA’s assessment. Almost 900,000 people weighed in during the second comment period: 73 percent of all comments, 84 percent of individual comments from within Alaska, and a staggering 98 percent of individual comments from within Bristol Bay supported EPA action to protect Bristol Bay.
When the Trump administration first threatened to withdraw the proposed protections in 2017, EPA again solicited public comment. The agency received over one million comments—with 99.9% of the docket supporting protections for Bristol Bay.
We’ve been here before.
The Obama administration banned oil and gas drilling in Bristol Bay, but was stopped short of finalizing 404(c) Clean Water Act protections. When EPA issued a Proposed Determination under Section 404(c) in 2014, the Pebble Limited Partnership filed three separate lawsuits—effectively running out the clock until the Trump administration took over and withdrew those proposed protections.
The Biden administration must learn from the past. There is no time to waste.
It has been six years since President Obama visited Bristol Bay and called it a “remarkable” and “important” natural resource that deserves permanent protection.
And it has been more than one year since President Biden, while campaigning for the office he now holds, pledged to “listen to the scientists and experts to protect Bristol Bay—and all it offers to Alaska, our country, and the world.”
Yet today this critical watershed remains at risk.
It’s time for EPA to fulfill President Biden’s promise.
It’s time for EPA to take immediate action under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to ensure the long-term protection of Bristol Bay from large scale mining like the Pebble Mine.
The science, the law, and the will of the people support it.
Click here to add your support.