Bristol Bay lodge owner Nancy Morris Lyon asks Administrator McCarthy about the EPA's plans to protect Bristol Bay from the impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.
The Environmental Protection Agency is doing exactly what it should do in regard to the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and that's "get the science behind any decision," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy during a keynote speech at Trout Unlimited's annual membership meeting on Friday in Madison, Wisc.
The agency has drafted a watershed assessment on Bristol Bay and solicited public input on the document. Public comments overwhelmingly oppose the Pebble Mine proposal, and McCarthy said Friday that her administration would take those comments to heart and finalize the document in the coming months.
"I know well that there is significant concern over Bristol Bay," McCarthy said to about 200 TU members and staff. "It's extremely important for us to have the science right so we can understand how to best protect that area."
One of the first visits McCarthy took upon confirmation as the EPA's lead official was to Bristol Bay to see for herself just how pristine the watershed is, and how important keeping it intact is to the people who live there and the thousands who visit each year to fish, hunt and recreate.
"It was eye-opening to me," McCarthy said. "What an absolutely stunningly beautiful and pristine place."
McCarthy's comments were well-received, and her 30-minute was talk was interrupted by applause a couple of times, includiing when she said:
"I know and you know that (Bristol Bay) is the premiere--in the world--sockeye salmon fishery and we are going to make sure that that is not impacted by any development in that area. That's what we have to do. That's our job."
Despite that comment, McCarthy did add a caveat.
"EPA is not going to to take a position on this until we have an opportuntiy to see what the science says," she said. "We are going to follow the science. And we are going to see how we can protect that fishery in a way that reasonably appropriate and legally defensible."
McCarthy visit with TU members on Friday was part of a larger series of talks she's giving around the country touting the Obama Administration's new action plan to address climate change. She cited a report TU helped draft, and noted that trout and salmon could be among the first casualties of a warming world.