- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 27, 2018

In an abrupt reversal, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Friday evening said he was reversing course on a highly controversial Alaska mine project and argued the risk to key fisheries in the area could be too great.

Mr. Pruitt’s change of course on the proposed Pebble gold and copper mine in Bristol Bay comes after talks with Alaskan stakeholders, he said. Following those conversations, the administrator said it looks likely the mine could pose serious risks to the Bay.

“We have restored process, reviewed comments, and heard from a variety of stakeholders on whether to withdraw the proposed restrictions in the Bristol Bay watershed,” Mr. Pruitt said. “Based on that review, it is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there. Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection. Today’s action allows EPA to get the information needed to determine what specific impacts the proposed mining project will have on those critical resources.”

Pebble Limited Partnership, the company proposing the mine in Bristol Bay, must clear a “high bar” to have its applications approved, Mr. Pruitt added.

The case stretches back to 2014, when the Obama administration issued an opinion that the Pebble mine could do serious damage to Bristol Bay. That determination came even before Pebble Limited Partnership had submitted all of its federal applications, leading the company to sue the federal government.

That lawsuit was resolved in May 2017 when Mr. Pruitt allowed the applications to proceed, the first step in what many expected would be an approval of the project.

Friday’s statement from the EPA casts doubt on whether the mine will ever become a reality.

“This action demonstrates the Agency’s commitment to both the rule of law and process, and upholding the EPA’s core mission of environmental stewardship,” the agency said.

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