Latest expert comments confirm Pebble still poses unacceptable, adverse impacts

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May 8, 2020

Charles Fedullo, (907) 388-8055

Latest expert comments confirm Pebble still poses unacceptable, adverse impacts
Expert input suggests 404 permit must be denied

Anchorage, AK – The Preliminary Final Environmental Impact Statement (Preliminary Final EIS) for the proposed Pebble mine does not address many of the deficiencies identified in the Draft EIS for the project. This is the unmistakable conclusion from cooperating agency comments on the document, which were obtained by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The expert critiques demonstrate that the standards laid out in 2020 Congressional appropriations language for the Pebble EIS have not been met, and cannot be met if the Army Corps of Engineers sticks to its current unjustifiably aggressive permitting schedule. These comments are compiled and available in an easy-to-read document available on BBNC’s website.

“The Preliminary Final EIS for the proposed Pebble mine falls far short of meeting the standards required under the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Daniel Cheyette, BBNC Vice President, Lands and Natural Resources. “Indeed, the latest EIS falls well short of the promises Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) has made to Alaskans for well over a decade. The only legitimate permit decision that can be based on the existing record and science is to deny PLP the federal 404 permit it is seeking. Anything short would put Bristol Bay’s fisheries and way of life in jeopardy.”

A few excerpts from cooperating agency comments are below.

On salmon habitat:
The PFEIS fails to acknowledge that habitat destruction and degradation associated with mine development […] would erode the portfolio of habitat diversity and associated life history diversity that stabilize annual salmon returns to the Bristol Bay region. – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

On PLP’s inadequate or incomplete plans:
It is not clear that the PFEIS has considered risks, impacts, or mitigation of changes in operations or failures in the closure and post-closure periods and the respective obligations of the applicant.

[The closure approach for the] pyritic Tailings Storage Facility … does not appear to be reasonable, practicable or safe. – Alaska Department of Natural Resources

On water quality:
No support for conclusion that metals would be diluted to below ADEC groundwater cleanup levels. – Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

On tailings dam design:
There is concern that some and perhaps all of the entire centerline part of the bulk TSF main embankment (not just the uppermost raise) could slide into potentially undrained tailings and have consequent effects in a downstream direction. – AECOM Technical Memo

Agencies offering critical comments include Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. There are also strong criticisms from Curyung Tribal Council, Nondalton Tribal Council and Lake and Peninsula Borough, as well as PLP’s own EIS contractor, AECOM.

Despite requests from cooperating tribes focused almost entirely on COVID-19 preparation and response, The Army Corps of Engineers’ Alaska District has thus far refused to modify its aggressive time frame for permitting Pebble mine, which calls for a final EIS and permit decision (called a Record of Decision) later this year.

The Preliminary Final EIS confirms a rushed and incomplete process that will leave Bristol Bay and its highly valuable and important salmon resource at risk should the Army Corps of Engineers move forward with issuing a 404 permit.


About BBNC: Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) is a responsible Alaska Native investment corporation dedicated to the mission of “Enriching Our Native Way of Life.” Established through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, BBNC works to protect the land in Bristol Bay, celebrate the legacy of its people, and enhance the lives of its shareholders.