The top U.S. environmental official said he fully supports the agency’s decision to block construction of a gold-copper mine in Alaska’s salmon-rich Bristol Bay, even though Alaska has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the action.
“Let me be clear, we’re very proud of our decision to really evaluate the Pebble mine project and take the necessary steps to protect Bristol Bay,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Reagan said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. Embarked on a four-day trip to Alaska, starting in a village on Bristol Bay.
The EPA rejected the pebble mine proposal in January, citing concerns over possible impacts on the aquatic ecosystem in southwestern Alaska that supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. The area is also rich in mineral resources.
Last month, Alaska asked the state’s high court to intervene.
“The EPA order strikes at the heart of Alaska’s sovereignty, stripping the state of its authority to manage its lands and waters,” the court documents said.
The EPA and Justice Department are reviewing the complaint and must submit an optional response by the end of next month, Reagan said.
Reagan’s first stop will be the village of Igiugig on Bristol Bay, about 250 miles (402 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage where Lake Iliamna empties into Kovicak River (Kvichak River). The village has 68 residents, mostly Aboriginal people, who lead a lifestyle based primarily on salmon.
Reagan planned to discuss solid waste management issues and energy production with tribal leaders, while “emphasizing the importance of the decisions we made around the pebble mines to preserve the Gulf’s environment and cultural, spiritual and livelihood reasoning.”
Asked if the EPA could or should have taken other action to block the mine if the state wins, he said their process follows science and the law on a project-by-project basis, just as the agency assesses pebble mines in the same way. My advice.
“I’m very happy with the decision we made,” he said.
Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., which owns the Pebble Limited Partnership, has been pursuing the mine. According to the proposal, the project calls for the extraction of up to 73 million tons per year.
Reagan plans to discuss environmental justice issues, climate change, subsistence food security, water infrastructure and contamination of contaminated land conveyed through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act during his first visit to the nation’s largest state.
The discussion will also include how the EPA can use money from the so-called Reduction Inflation Act, or the climate and health care bills passed last year, to help support community projects.
Other stops will be in Utqiagvik, the northernmost community in the country formerly known as Barrow; Fairbanks; Anchorage and the Aboriginal village of Eklutna where North of the state’s largest city.
Alaska becomes the fourth stop on Reagan’s “Journey for Justice” tour to understand how pollution affects people. Previously visited Puerto Rico; McDowell County, West Virginia, which includes stops in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Reagan isn’t the only Biden administration official who will be visiting. U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge will address Alaska’s housing needs later this week.
Other administration officials who visited this summer included U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.