As someone who loves salmon, I’ve been disturbed by reports of a threat to Alaska salmon from a proposed mine in Southwest Alaska. These concerns led the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment study to weigh the potential environmental impact, specifically to the salmon fishery in Bristol Bay. The study found that there is cause for concern, but there is one big hole in their Assessment: the mine that they studied isn’t the one proposed by the Pebble Limited Partnership, the group planning to tap the mineral resources there. We know that because Pebble hasn’t even completed its plans yet, much less submitted them to the EPA for the normal review process.

Instead the EPA chose to examine a “hypothetical” mine plan, one that had not even gone through their own review process, and then came to the rather obvious conclusion that it wasn’t safe enough . We all agree on the importance of preserving our environment, and protecting the health of the Alaska salmon fishery and related jobs, but there is already an established set of rules in place to do just that. Pebble understands that, in order to obtain their permits, they must satisfy the concerns of all the local, state and federal bodies, and convince them that this mine will be operated in a responsible way. They have already spent over $175 million on environmental studies in order to prepare a plan that will meet the strict standards required; all they ask is to be allowed to apply for a permit under the normal process.

The Pebble mine project is big business for the Northwest; it will provide almost 15,000 high paying jobs and over a billion dollars a year in combined taxes and revenue to the local, state and federal government. This mine would have a huge economic benefit to the state of Alaska, and Washington State would share in the business through added jobs as well.

But this is not an issue of jobs versus the environment – we can have mining in Alaska and protect the Alaska salmon. This is an issue of the EPA deciding it has the power to shut down any development before it even has a chance to start. America is the land of opportunity, and Pebble deserves the opportunity to make their case.

Nansen Malin
Washington State Director
Americans for Prosperity

[featured image used under Creative Commons license, credit: Marie-Hélène Cingal]