Environmental groups that challenged an EPA ruling supporting the Pebble Mine project in the Bristol Bay region have won an appeal in federal court.
The court case involves objections to an Environmental Protection Agency decision in 2019 that removed safeguards for the Bristol Bay watershed, home to the world’s largest wild salmon fishery.
A panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the EPA could only remove the protections “when an ‘unacceptable adverse effect’ on specified resources was not ‘likely.’”
Last week’s panel decision means that the plaintiffs’ objection to the EPA ruling will go back to district court for further review.
Environmental groups, tribes and fishing organizations are trying to block the development of Pebble Mine, alleging that it could pollute the watershed.
The mine would be located at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. Pebble Mine would cover more than 150 acres and be Alaska’s largest mine.
The plaintiffs cite the potential of acid mine drainage leaching into the watershed and the risk of toxic spills from Pebble Mine, among other concerns.
Plaintiffs in the case include Alaska Wilderness League, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., United Tribes of Bristol Bay and Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.
Pebble Limited Partnership, the mine’s developer, is owned by Northern Dynasty Partnership, based in Canada.
In other action involving the proposed mine, the developers appealed a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to deny them a permit. That appeal is still under review.
Contact political reporter Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.