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Pebble-area Alaska Native Villages sue EPA

North of 60 Mining News – June 26, 2024

Alaska Peninsula and Iliamna claim that federal agency's Pebble veto is illegal and costing them enormous economic opportunity.

Alaska Peninsula Corp. and Iliamna Natives Ltd. June 24 filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency that alleges the federal agency's veto to "kill a mining project in Bristol Bay at the Pebble deposit, which is the largest gold- and copper-ore deposit in the world" will cost these two Alaska Native corporations "hundreds of millions of dollars in business."

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Alaska Peninsula Corp. is an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) corporation representing the villages of South Naknek, Port Heiden, Ugashik, Kokhanok, and Newhalen. Iliamna Natives Ltd. is the ANCSA corporation for the village of Iliamna.

"For the Iliamna and Alaska Peninsula village corporations, the Pebble mine development promises responsible economic development and empowers Alaska Natives to thrive while preserving their traditional ways of life," Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing both corporations in the lawsuit, penned in an article.

Both corporations, which represent the Alaska Native villages closest to the world-class Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum-silver-rhenium deposit, have a longstanding business relationship with the Pebble Limited Partnership, an Alaska-based subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Ltd. that is advancing the project.

"The jobs, economic activity and revenue from Pebble would bring significant positive benefits to the communities closest to us, as represented by INL and APC in this lawsuit," said Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively. "From the beginning, the EPA has given little weight to the views expressed by these communities because it did not fit their predetermined narrative against the project."

In their lawsuit, the ANCSA corporations said that the Pebble project had provided good-paying jobs, which had brought back residents who had left due to the lack of economic opportunities.

"After the EPA veto, these jobs vanished," according to the lawsuit.

"The 'No Pebble' scenario for the communities represented by these two village corporations is one in which there is continued outmigration, increased already-higher-than-average cost of living, and lack of opportunities," Shively said.

"Those who oppose Pebble have not provided any alternative that would improve the economy of this area," he added. "These two Native Village Corporations understand that the EPA and our opposition care little about their future."

Pacific Legal Foundation says EPA's veto of the Pebble Mine project goes beyond providing economic opportunities that empower Alaska Natives to thrive while preserving their traditional ways of life.

The public interest law firm says the use of alleged powers under the Clean Water Act's Section 404(c) to veto Pebble sets a dangerous precedent for the agency to use this power to strike down projects it doesn't like.

"Specifically, Section 404(c) allows the EPA to decide what counts as 'adverse' or 'unacceptable' effects without clearly defining these terms and control the existence of projects that could drastically improve lives and livelihoods," the law firm wrote.

They argue that even if Congress intended to provide EPA with veto power under CWA Section 404(c), they must provide clear direction on how it can be applied.

"The significance of this veto power cannot be understated," Pacific Legal Foundation wrote. "The agency prioritized disputed ecological concerns over the potential for hundreds or even billions of dollars in economic development for southwest Alaska and its people."

The implications of this largely unfettered veto power and the economic and cultural impacts the use of this power is having on the Alaska Native Village corporation is why the Pacific Legal Foundation decided to take this case.

"If unelected bureaucrats in Washington, DC, can stretch their powers to make laws that cripple one mine project in America's last frontier, they can do the same thing to anyone, on any issue, anywhere in the country," wrote the law firm defending Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

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Over his more than 16 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.


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