Alaska asks US Supreme Court to undo EPA Pebble mine veto

The proposed site for Alaska’s Pebble mine, at the headwaters of the rivers that empty into Bristol Bay. Credit: jsear | Flickr

The state of Alaska on Wednesday asked the US Supreme Court to vacate a Biden administration veto blocking Northern Dynasty Minerals’ proposed Pebble copper and gold mining project, arguing the move violated a decades-old land swap deal and the state’s sovereignty.

The lawsuit asked the high court to reverse the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act veto. The agency’s January decision determined the Pebble project would cause large-scale loss and damage to the Bristol Bay watershed, and prohibited the project from dumping mining waste into those waters.

Alaska said the restrictions violate the state’s sovereign right to regulate its lands and waters, as well as a 1976 land swap with the US government that gave the state ownership over the area in question.

The EPA’s decision illegally blocks development that is “critical to the continued well-being of Alaska, which has long relied on its resource-rich lands to fund the state and local governments,” the state said.

The EPA said it is reviewing the filing. A representative for Northern Dynasty didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

John Shively, chief executive of Northern Dynasty’s Pebble LP unit, which is overseeing the project, said in January that the EPA’s decision was unlawful and would hurt the state’s economy.

The Bristol Bay watershed in southwestern Alaska supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and is known for its large mineral resources. The watershed also provides habitat for 29 species of fish, more than 190 birds and dozens of mammals, according to the EPA.

The proposed mine would tap one of the world’s largest copper and gold deposits. The EPA claims it would permanently destroy over 2,000 acres of wetlands.

Alaska’s lawsuit was filed directly with the Supreme Court, instead of first going through lower courts, which Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor said in a statement is an “extraordinary ask” that is needed because the EPA’s decision was itself “extraordinary.”

The case is State of Alaska v. United States, US Supreme Court, No. not immediately available.

For Alaska: Attorney General Treg Taylor; Ronald Opsahl of the Alaska Department of Law; and Michael Connolly and Gilbert Dickey of Consovoy McCarthy

For the US: Not yet available

Read more: Northern Dynasty’s Pebble copper project gains more time


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