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EPA Releases Revised Bristol Bay Assessment;
Agency asks for Additional Peer Review and Public Comment


April 26, 2013
Friday PM

(SitNews) Seattle, WA - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a revised version of the Bristol Bay Assessment for peer review follow-up and public comment. The assessment released today includes updates following an initial peer review and public comment period of the draft Bristol Bay Assessment released in May, 2012. EPA is arranging for the original independent, scientific peer reviewers to evaluate the revisions made following their feedback. EPA is also inviting the public to submit comments until May 31, 2013.

The peer review follow-up and comment period are meant to ensure that EPA is using the best available science for its assessment, and that information from a range of stakeholders is considered, including industry, conservation groups, and Tribes. The revised assessment reflects feedback from the initial peer review report and 233,000 public comments EPA received when it released the original assessment.

Key changes to the assessment include:

Refinement and better explanation of the mine scenarios assessed, including the role in developing these scenarios of worldwide industry standards for porphyry copper mining and specific preliminary mine plans submitted to state and federal agencies related to the Pebble Mine Project.

- Incorporation of modern conventional mining practices into mine scenarios and clarification that some of the projected impacts assume that those practices are in place and working properly.

- Addition of an appendix describing methods to compensate for impacts to wetlands, streams and fish.

- Reorganization of the assessment to better reflect the ecological risk assessment approach and to clarify the purpose and scope.

- Additional details about projected water loss and water quality impacts on stream reaches, drainage of waste rock leachate to streams, and mine site water balance to assessment of potential mine impacts.

Expanded information on the potential transportation corridor, including analysis of potential diesel pipeline spills, product concentrate spills, truck accidents involving process chemicals and culvert failures.

The public comment period ends May 31, 2013.

EPA released the draft Bristol Bay Assessment on May 18, 2012. The agency held a series of public meetings concurrent with the release and received feedback from 12 independent expert peer reviewers.

In February 2011, in response to growing interest in large-scale mining in the watershed from a number of stakeholders and local communities with a range of views, EPA launched the Bristol Bay assessment to gain a better understanding of the watershed and the potential impacts of large-scale mining in the area. The assessment provides a scientific foundation for future decision-making by federal and state agencies and to inform public discussion. EPA has made no decisions about using its Clean Water Act authorities in Bristol Bay.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) responded today to the Environmental Protection Agency’s release of a revised watershed assessment of Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.  

“My review of the full document is still underway, but in the meantime I want to reiterate what I have said in the past. Attempts to prejudge any mining project before the full details of that proposal are submitted to the EPA for review is unacceptable. The permitting process exists for a reason and a federal agency can no more ignore the established process than can an applicant,” Murkowski said.

“If the EPA has concerns about the impact of a project there is an appropriate time to raise them – after a permit application has been made, not before. It is clear to me that a preemptive veto of resource development is quite simply outside the legal authority that Congress intended to provide to of the EPA. I made that clear to the previous EPA administrator and I will make it clear to the current nominee, Gina McCarthy,” Murkowski said.

The EPA undertook the watershed assessment in response to petitions to preemptively veto development in Alaska. Murkowski has continually criticized the EPA for failing to rule out using the watershed assessment to justify preemptively blocking development, including mineral production by the Pebble Limited Partnership, in Southwest Alaska.

Murkowski has also stated that EPA’s use of a hypothetical mine – much of which is designed to violate modern environmental standards – is a fundamental flaw that must be fixed if Alaskans are to make informed decisions about development in the state. The revised watershed assessment does not fix this flaw.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) in a prepared statement said, “The EPA was asked some tough questions by Alaskans and their own hand-picked peer review panel about how large scale development might affect the rich salmon resources of Bristol Bay.  While I remain opposed to a pre-emptive veto of this or any other project, an open, public process that answers Alaskans’ questions and puts better science on the table is a good thing.  I look forward to reviewing this assessment and hope it answers questions about whether this project can meet the high hurdle of developing a large-scale mine while protecting our renewable resources.”

After this peer review follow-up and public comment period are complete, EPA will review feedback and move forward to finalize the assessment. EPA intends to issue a final assessment in 2013.


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


On the Web:

To review the revised assessment, for instructions how to submit comments, and to learn more about the Bristol Bay Assessment


Source of News: 


Office of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Office of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich

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