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Taryn Kiekow Heimer’s Blog

Congress Talks EPA and Mining Jobs

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Posted October 11, 2013 in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Yesterday, the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a brief hearing entitled “EPA vs. American Mining Jobs: The Obama Administration’s Regulatory Assault on the Economy.”

Needless to say, under the control of the House Republican majority, the hearing was stacked against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—and unfortunately, because the agency’s employees are furloughed due to the government shutdown, none of them could attend the hearing to respond.

Three of the four witnesses chosen to testify expounded on the Obama Administration EPA’s “burdensome red-tape, onerous federal regulations, and abusive actions”—Edmond Fogels, Deputy Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Sheldon Maier, President of the Fortymile Mining District in Alaska, and Chris Hamilton, Senior Vice President of the West Virginia Coal Association. Norman Van Vactor, CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, was the sole witness who voiced support for the agency that works hard every day to implement the laws and regulations that protect our public health and natural resources.

Norman Van Vactor from the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation described the “economic importance of the [Bristol Bay salmon] fishery [that] extends well beyond Alaska." The proposed Pebble Mine threatens this extremely productive (and sustainable) resource. The Bristol Bay Watershed is a national treasure. It supports a diverse array of wildlife in the region—from bears, to eagles, to whales and seals—as well as Alaska Natives’ sustainable way of life. It produces over half the world’s sockeye salmon. It supports 12,000 jobs and generates $1.5 billion annually.

Moreover, the Pebble Mine has inspired a unique coalition of bipartisan, broadband opposition that Van Vactor described in his testimony—Alaska Natives, commercial and sport fishermen, environmental groups, and Bristol Bay residents are all united against the Pebble Mine. During a recent public comment period on EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, 98% of the comments from Bristol Bay Residents, 84% of the comments from Alaskans, and 73% of all comments supported EPA action to protect Bristol Bay under the Clean Water Act. There is no controversy here. The message is clear: Alaskans don’t want the Pebble Mine.

Representative Louie Gohmert offered up this pearl of wisdom: “let me just remind you, that if nature had its way there would be a lot more extinct species than there are now.”

Well, if nature had its way there wouldn’t be 10 billion tons of toxic mine tailings sitting on top of a seismically active saddle that separates two of the most prolific salmon-spawning drainages on Earth: Alaska’s Nushagak and Kvichak river systems. But if the Pebble Partnership has its way, there will be.

The EPA needs to act on its authority under the Clean Water Act and prohibit large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay Watershed. Click here to lend your support to stop the Pebble Mine.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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