House Votes to Suspend Pebble Mine Funding

Appropriations Amendment Would Suspend Pebble Permitting Funding for FY 2020

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed an appropriations package, with an amendment to bar funding for the Pebble Mine permitting process. 

The amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations Act, sponsored by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), blocks FY 20 funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finalize its reckless and flawed environmental impact statement (EIS) for the giant gold and copper mine proposed at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Bristol Bay is an American treasure and economic engine. It’s home to the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery, which generates $1.5 billion annually, fuels Alaska’s economy, supports 14,000 jobs, and feeds indigenous communities. The proposed Pebble Mine threatens the entire region—its people, its salmon, and the multimillion-dollar economy it supports.

Given its projected impacts, it’s no wonder the Pebble Mine is overwhelmingly and relentlessly opposed by the people who live there—tribes, village corporations, commercial, subsistence, and recreational fishermen, hunters, lodge owners, businesses, and conservationists.

In spite of this overwhelming opposition, the Army Corps published a wholly inadequate draft environmental impact statement that:

  • Lacks critical information about the project’s risks to Bristol Bay’s fisheries, communities and wildlife;
  • Ignores the threat of a tailings dam failure;
  • Overlooks cultural and public health impacts;
  • Fails to properly evaluate the full scope and long-term impacts that the Pebble Mine would have on Bristol Bay’s waters and the people, wildlife, and businesses that depend on it;
  • Lacks completely an economic feasibility analysis, reclamation and closure plan, and wetlands mitigation; and,
  • Includes an unprecedented and unproven water treatment plan.

The Army Corps’ rushed review yielded a draft EIS that limited tribal and agency consultation and allows baseline data collection and various scientific studies to occur after the EIS and permitting decisions.

For all these reasons, the current permitting process is fundamentally flawed.

Rep. Huffman’s amendment slows the process down by prohibiting the Army Corps from issuing a final EIS for the project for one year.

To be clear, Rep. Huffman’s amendment does not end the Pebble Mine’s federal permitting process. Instead, it allows for a more reasonable time frame driven by facts, not political and financial agendas.

Alaska Native tribes and Bristol Bay fisheries leaders immediately applauded the House of Representatives for passing the Huffman amendment, noting that widespread deficiencies in the current permitting process call for its immediate halt.

Ralph Andersen, President & CEO of the Bristol Bay Native Association stated:

“The current review process for Pebble Mine is failing Alaskans and threatens our communities and culture. Local voices and concerns are being ignored, science is being short-changed and the entire process is improperly weighing the risks of the proposed Pebble Mine to our way of life and jobs and fish. The vote today was a demonstration of support for the people and economy of Bristol Bay, and we are grateful. The Pebble mine shouldn’t get the special treatment they are getting and I am glad Congress took a good step toward holding them accountable.”

Norm Van Vactor, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation President and CEO said:

“The Army Corps of Engineers should be asking the Pebble Partnership tough questions, and holding the public review process to the standard required by law for the benefit of all Americans. Instead they have chosen to simply fast track the Pebble project and cut corners on the process. They have failed to require the company to submit a typically standard economic feasibility study. They have failed to require the company to submit a plan for environmental cleanup in the event of a failure that jeopardizes our region’s fish and jobs. They have failed to even ask Pebble to present a plan for the worst-case scenario where a tailings dam fails and exposes the waters of our region to toxic mine waste. These kinds of answers needed to make an informed decision when it comes to Pebble mine and our future. It’s unfortunate that our own leaders aren’t standing up and making sure this process meets the standards Bristol Bay deserves and we are grateful other leaders have seen the seriousness of this situation and taken action.”

Alannah Hurley, Executive Director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay stated:

"Native people in Bristol Bay have made their opposition to Pebble Mine known for over a decade. This is a decision that will positively impact our community and our way of life for generations. It has been incredibly disheartening to see the Trump Administration ignore past precedent and standards in order to push this toxic project closer to reality. UTBB is grateful for this amendment. It will serve a critical role in providing oversight of a runaway federal agency. Despite our continued local opposition to this project, it is discouraging that our own Representatives in the Congress ignore our concerns and would rather tell us to trust a process that we are watching fail us every day, a process that is paving the way for this foreign mining company. We are grateful to those in Congress, like Representative Huffman, who have listened to our concerns and elevated our voices in the absence of own delegation, and we look forward to moving this amendment forward through the Senate."

Rep. Huffman, who chairs the House Committee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife, also led a letter from House Democrats to the Army Corps last week urging the agency to pump the brakes on Pebble:

“We urge the Corps to listen to the tribes, village corporations, commercial fishermen, hunters, anglers, and those whose lives and livelihoods depend on the integrity of the Bristol Bay watershed, and we urge the Corps to deny the permit for the Pebble Mine.”

Pebble Mine is a controversial project proposed in a sensitive region.  The bar for its review should be high, and its permit should be halted until the draft EIS is overhauled to address its many defects.

Click here to tell Army Corps to say NO to the Pebble Mine. Comments will be accepted through July 1, 2019.

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Deputy Director, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Nature Program

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