Sens. Murkowski and Begich Press EPA to Allow Kensington Mine to Go Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, today met with Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regarding the agency’s objections to Coeur Alaska’s plans to dispose of tailings from the Kensington mine in Lower Slate Lake in the Tongass National Forest.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Coeur Alaska had a valid tailings permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Despite the high court’s ruling, the EPA is insisting that the Corps re-evaluate the tailings disposal plan and consider alternatives.
Murkowski and Begich on Thursday expressed strong concern at the EPA’s attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s decision, which will cause further unnecessary delay.
“The EPA’s actions will open the door to another round of multi-year legal challenges that could effectively bury this project for good,” Murkowski said. “Coeur deserves the certainty promised by the Supreme Court.”
“Sen. Murkowski and I had a frank and worthwhile discussion with Administrator Jackson and her staff,” Begich said. “We emphasized the importance of the Kensington mine project to the Juneau economy and the urgency of resolving any remaining questions about the mine permit so Alaskans can get to work there as soon as possible. Administrator Jackson agreed to hear additional facts which we believe are vital to the issue and to meet with us again very soon before making any final decisions.”
In the meeting, Murkowski highlighted a number of legal and factual errors in EPA’s comments to the Army Corps of Engineers on the reason to reevaluate Coeur’s plans.
Murkowski also pointed out that every other state and federal agency involved in the evaluation of the Kensington project has determined that Coeurs’ plan to deposit tailings in Lower Slate Lake was the best environmental option. Coeur would rehabilitate and restock the lake at the end of mining activity, resulting in improved fish and wildlife habitat.
“It’s clear that the EPA doesn’t have all the facts,” Murkowski said after the meeting in her Hart Senate building office. “I remain hopeful that the EPA will see that trying to do an end run around the Supreme Court to shut down a mine is not the appropriate approach to take.”
“I feel very strongly that it will not be a good process if we are forced to start all over again and delay this mine for many more years,” Begich said.
“It’s a shame that a gold mine in Alaska is being held hostage to an intra-agency turf battle between EPA and the Corps,” Murkowski said. “Too much further delay and we will not have a mine. I think that would be a shame both for the economy of Southeast Alaska, but also to mining in this country in general.”
Jackson and her staff promised to work with Murkowski and Begich to quickly resolve factual errors in the EPA’s comments before they submit them to the Corps.
“It’s important that we send a clear message to those who want to invest in responsibly developing Alaska’s natural resources that it is possible,” Murkowski said.
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