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Sen Cantwell on Pebble Mine Pollution...

Giovanna Larrea

So sorry to be the bearer of bad news…

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell


For Immediate Release

May 10, 2017

Bryan Watt (Cantwell)

(202) 224-8277  

Cantwell Delivers Warning Ahead of EPA Settlement: Pebble Mine Development Will Be “Catastrophic… Irreversible”

News of EPA settlement allowing mine to proceed with permit expected soon

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) warned President Trump of the consequences of tossing aside Clean Water Act safeguards to settle a lawsuit which would allow Pebble Bay Mine to move forward. The administration is expected to announce the settlement on Thursday.

A three-year Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study in 2014 found that it would destroy 24 to 94 miles of salmon-producing waterways in the course of normal, safe mine operations. The University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research found that the Bristol Bay, the fishery affected by the mine, supports 22,000 jobs and adds $674 million of economic activity to the states of Washington, Oregon, and California. Further, restrictions on mining have the support of 90% of local residents.

“The science is clear: the proposed Pebble Mine would result in catastrophic and irreversible damage to Bristol Bay salmon and the jobs that depend on them,” wrote Senator Cantwell. “We strongly urge you to maintain these safeguards to protect our Bristol Bay salmon and the thousands of jobs that depend on thriving fisheries there.”

Senator Cantwell successfully led the fight to save Bristol Bay when Pebble Mine was first proposed. In 2011, she urged the EPA to use authority under the Clean Water Act to block large scale development in Bristol Bay. She continued the drumbeat through 2014, when she rallied supporters at Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle to urge President Obama and the EPA to continue to prevent mining in the area.

Full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Mr. President, 

I write you today to urge the Administration to use its authority to protect our coastal fishing economies by supporting commonsense clean water protections in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The Bristol Bay watershed is home to the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world and one of the largest chi nook fisheries. Thousands of commercial and recreational fishermen rely on Bristol Bay salmon, which could be devastated if the proposed Pebble Mine becomes a reality.


Bristol Bay salmon fisheries support thousands of commercial, recreational and Alaska Native fishing families. According to a 2013 report by the University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research, Bristol Bay commercial fisheries are worth $1.5 billion dollars annually, including $500 million in direct income. Washington, Oregon and California benefit from $674 million in economic activity from Bristol Bay salmon harvesting and seafood processing. This economic activity fuels approximately 12,000 commercial fishing jobs and another 10,000 salmon related industry jobs across the United States from Alaska and Maine including shipbuilding, gear manufacturing, sportsmen and other support jobs. Recreational anglers take about 29,000 fishing trips annually to Bristol Bay, generating $60 million for the local economy and supporting 850 full and part time jobs. 

Based on the importance of the fishery to the region, and the Nation, fishermen have called on the Administration to protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine. The Pebble Mine would be a large scale hard rock mine located in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, near world class salmon spawning grounds. The mine site would require the construction of a massive earthen dam that would contain toxic waste, including arsenic and copper. 

After three years of rigorous scientific analysis, public comment and public hearings, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) published its findings regarding the proposed mine in January 2014 in the finalized Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska (EPA 91O-R-1 4-001 ). The science is clear: the proposed Pebble Mine would result in catastrophic and irreversible damage to Bristol Bay salmon and the jobs that depend on them. The Assessment found that between 24 and 94 miles of salmon producing streams would be destroyed in normal, safe operations of the mine, without factoring in any failures, unintended pollution or dam breaching. In addition, between 1,300 and 5,350 acres of wetlands would be completely ruined. 

The proposed Pebble Mine is a direct threat to those jobs, and the Pacific Northwest economy, which is why the agency recommended that common-sense restrictions be put on large scale hard rock mining development in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. These restrictions provide certainty for the mining industry, fishing economies and are supported by more than 90% of local residents. 

I understand that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to settle a lawsuit with the mine's parent company, Northern Dynasty, and arbitrarily throw out proposed Clean Water Act safeguards intended to protect salmon in Bristol Bay. I strongly urge you to maintain these safeguards to protect Bristol Bay salmon and the thousands of jobs that depend on thriving fisheries there. I stand firmly with the fishing families and businesses that reside in my state, and ask you to work to protect their livelihoods and their future. Fishing families should not have their jobs put at risk in order to pave the way for foreign mining companies to skirt American laws that protect clean water. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.