House bill could impact permitting Pebble

The U.S. House on Wednesday, June 19 passed an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations Act that would prohibit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from using their funds to issue a permit for the proposed copper, gold and molybdenum Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska.

The amendment to H.R. 2740 passed 233-201, on a bipartisan vote.

The legislation still faces a U.S. Senate vote.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., would prohibit USACE from finalizing the environmental impact statement for the mine.

On Monday, June 17, nearly 50 Alaska-based sportfishing, hunting and tourism businesses and organizations sent a letter to the House of Representatives urging their support of Huffman’s amendment 90 to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. The mine would have a negative impact on the Bristol Bay economy, they said.

 “As sportsfishing lodge owners, guides, bear viewing outfitters, lodge operators, air taxi businesses owners and organizations who are reliant on the clean water, healthy habitat and the wild characteristics of the Bristol Bay region, we have watched the Pebble mine closely over the past decade and a half. As we have learned more, we have become increasingly concerned,” the letter said.

“There is a statute and a process to follow for evaluating projects like ours and it’s too bad the Democrats in the House chose to play politics instead of allowing the process to work,” said Pebble Limited Partnership spokesman Mike Heatwole.  “We’re hopeful the Senate will stand up for NEPA and fair process.” 

Fishing lodge owner Brian Kraft, who is also the president of Katmai Service Provides, called the Corps’ process for the proposed mine “fundamentally flawed.

“The Pebble Partnership has manipulated what should have been a robust examination of real potential adverse effects of a mine located in prime salmon habitat,” Kraft said.

“Alaskans have raised dozens of flaws with the current review process over the past year,” said Nelli Williams, Alaska director for Trout Unlimited. “The project review process is far from robust and is being drive by special interests instead of science.”