Pebble Mine debate in Alaska: EPA becomes target by planning for rare ‘veto’ – by Joby Warrick (Washington Post – February 15, 2015)
Just north of Iliamna Lake in southwestern Alaska is an empty expanse of marsh and shrub that conceals one of the world’s great buried fortunes: A mile-thick layer of virgin ore said to contain at least 6.7 million pounds — or $120 billion worth — of gold.
As fate would have it, a second treasure sits precisely atop the first: the spawning ground for the planet’s biggest runs of sockeye salmon, the lifeline of a fishery that generates $500 million a year.
Between the two is the Obama administration, which has all but decided that only one of the treasures can be brought to market. How the White House came to side with fish over gold is a complex tale that involves millionaire activists, Alaska Natives, lawsuits and one politically explosive question: Can the federal government say no to a property owner before he has a chance to explain what he wants to do?
As early as this spring, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to invoke a rarely used legal authority to bar a Canadian company, Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., from beginning work on its proposed Pebble Mine, citing risks to salmon and to Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay, 150 miles downstream.
The EPA’s position is supported by a broad coalition of conservationists, fishermen and tribal groups — and, most opinion polls show, by a majority of Alaskans. Read the rest of this entry »