WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today responded 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.
Murkowski has twice written to the EPA (Feb. 16, 2011 and April 18, 2012) about her concerns with the agency’s Bristol Bay watershed assessment, including whether a decision by the agency to block a large-scale mining operation could set a legal precedent that would prevent other development proposals. The EPA responded on Mar. 21, 2011, and May 17, 2012.