In today’s polarized political landscape, it’s not uncommon to have federal agencies and their directives change drastically when administrations change. Take the Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, and its findings in 2015 that hard-rock mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed would likely prove harmful to the region’s salmon runs—it’s home to half of the world’s sockeye salmon harvest.
Developers of the proposed Pebble Mine are challenging that decision in court, and just last week, attorney’s for the mine announced that the company and the EPA were near a settlement to this challenge. It’s not a surprise, really. Since Administrator Scott Pruitt took over the EPA with the dawn of the new administration, much of the agency’s hard-fought efforts to protect air, water, climate and the environment in general have been curtailed—there’s a new sheriff in town, and these important priorities many American fought for over the last decade amount to “government overreach” in the eyes of Mr. Pruitt.
While many in the conservation and fishing community celebrated the EPA’s foresight just a couple years ago, this is a reminder that Pebble Mine still remains a threat to the salmon, trout and char of the Bristol Bay, as well as to the people who depend on these fish for their livelihoods and, in many cases, their subsistence.
The video above is certainly a tongue-in-cheek look at the issue, but at its heart, it poses the questions many of us who value the fishery and the 14,000 American jobs it provides every year, along with the $1.5 billion postive impact the fishery has on Alaska’s economy. To trade this long-term, renewable resource for a finite operation that could trash the fishery and leave behind a permanent toxic legacy is a fool’s errand. Administrator Pruitt maybe in charge of the EPA these days, but the commercial fishermen of Bristol Bay, recreational anglers from all over America and the people of Alaska have spoken.
Pebble Mine remains the wrong mine in the wrong place.
— Chris Hunt