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EPA to Withdraw Clean Water Act Restrictions for Pebble Mine


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to withdraw its July 2014 Clean Water Act Proposed Determination that would, if finalized, have imposed restrictions on the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with the potential Pebble mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. The EPA is seeking public comment on whether to withdraw the proposed determination.

The EPA is consulting with tribal governments of the Bristol Bay region and with Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Regional and Village corporations with lands in the Bristol Bay watershed. After the close of the public comment and tribal consultation process, the EPA will decide whether to issue a final withdrawal or not. The EPA is also requesting public comment on whether the EPA administrator should review and reconsider a final withdrawal decision, if such a decision is made.

Public comments must be received on or before 90 days from the date of publication of the Federal Register Notice. Comments may be emailed to: [email protected] with docket number EPA-R10-OW-2017-0369 in the email subject line. For more information, including the pre-publication Federal Register Notice announcing this public comment period, visit https://www.epa.gov/bristolbay.

In 2014, EPA’s Region 10 completed a multiyear effort to assess the Bristol Bay watershed, and then issued a Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Proposed Determination to restrict discharges of dredge or fill material into the watershed from mining the Pebble deposit. Section 404 is the part of the Clean Water Act that governs the permit evaluation process for actions that discharge dredged or fill material into waters of the United States. The EPA agreed to initiate a process to propose to withdraw the Proposed Determination as part of a May 11 settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership, whose subsidiaries own the mineral claims to the Pebble deposit. The agreement provides Pebble additional time to apply for a Clean Water Act 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before the EPA moves any further with its Clean Water Act Section 404(c) review.