Murkowski Cautions EPA Officials Against Overreaching with Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter sent today to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, cautioned the federal agency against overreaching in its assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed and prejudging any project prior to the release of a detailed development plan and the completion of a full scientific analysis of potential impacts.

“I believe the EPA should commit now to refraining from exercising a veto of development in the Bristol Bay area at any point prior to the full consideration of a permit application,” Murkowski said. “Any effort by the agency to block responsible development before a project has even been proposed would be unprecedented and would have a chilling effect on the state’s economy.”

Opponents of the Pebble Mine petitioned the EPA to block the proposed development by preemptively vetoing any necessary Clean Water Act permits. In response, the agency earlier this month announced plans to assess the potential impacts of development on the Bristol Bay watershed.

In the letter, Murkowski asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to provide greater detail on the agency’s plan to review the potential impact of future development in the Bristol Bay region, including whether the assessment would consider the total value of the mineral and other natural resources in the region and whether the study would be submitted for peer review.

Murkowski also asked whether the EPA has any concerns with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ current process for considering dredge or fill material permit applications.

“It’s my hope that answers to these questions will provide a better indication of the direction the EPA is headed with this watershed assessment,” Murkowski said. “I expect this process to be honest, transparent and inclusive. This must not be a check-the-box exercise that merely provides cover for the EPA to veto future permit applications.”

Murkowski cited the EPA’s recent retroactive veto of an already-approved West Virginia permit as prompting her concern over the agency’s action overruling the Army Corps of Engineers on water discharge permits.

“A preemptive veto, just like a preemptive approval, would be based purely on speculation and conjecture and would deprive relevant government agencies, and all stakeholders, of the specifics needed to take an informed position,” Murkowski said.

The full letter to the EPA is attached.