Sen. Murkowski: Preemptive Veto Process is Bad for Region, State, and Nation

While Reserving Judgment on Potential Mine, Senator Condemns EPA Decision

February 28, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today prohibited the consideration of any future permit application to develop a mine on state lands in the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska. 

In its release, EPA stated: “Now that the 404(c) process has been initiated, the Army Corps cannot issue a permit for fill in wetlands or streams associated with mining the Pebble deposit until EPA completes the 404(c) review process.”   

As Murkowski has repeatedly observed, prior to the Pebble project, EPA has never before asserted the authority to block development in an entire region before a permit application has even been filed. Today’s announcement sets a terrible precedent for all types of development in the Bristol Bay region, the state of Alaska, and throughout the United States.

Murkowski: “I understand that many in Bristol Bay strongly oppose this potential mine. I have spoken with dozens of local residents, including a large group who traveled all the way to Washington, DC, this week to make their case. It is out of respect for their concerns, livelihoods, and culture that I have reserved judgment on the mine itself – and made a commitment that we will not trade one resource for another. I do understand the importance and value of the fisheries resources that are an integral part of the Bristol Bay region. But even with that in mind, for the sake of sound law and policy, I have no choice but to remain strenuously and unequivocally opposed to a preemptive veto by EPA.      

“For the past three years, I have urged the agency not to prejudge this potential project before its developers sought permits or presented an official description of it. I have also called on the project’s owners to present their plan so that Alaskans have greater certainty about its expected benefits and impacts. Both parties must respect and abide by the permitting process. Neither should be allowed to subvert or circumvent it. 

“Today, however, EPA continued to move toward a premature veto based on what it assumes may happen with this project. We already have undeniably grave problems with federal agencies blocking resource production on federal lands in Alaska. Now to see a federal agency overstep its authority and move prematurely to block even the consideration of a permit for potential activity on state lands is something I simply cannot accept. 

“When and if a permit application is submitted – for Pebble or any other project – an independent scientific review is exactly what happens under the environmental review process that NEPA and the Clean Water Act provide. For any project, Alaskans and all Americans deserve a fair and unbiased environmental review of the project once a project description has been submitted.

“If EPA’s action today in effect prejudges this project, the process EPA has outlined could establish a terrible precedent that only further detracts from investors’ willingness to bring capital and jobs to Alaska. It will also open the door to preemptive vetoes on this and other projects, putting development on all of our state’s lands – and both public and private lands across the nation – at risk. EPA asserts that this situation is ‘unique.’ If this action is allowed to stand, where will the next ‘unique’ circumstance arise? EPA’s actions here could have potentially widespread consequences for any development project, including airports and other infrastructure, anywhere in the nation.”