Judge issues injunction on Pebble’s 156-page lawsuit despite overwhelming Alaskan support for stopping Pebble
Dillingham, AK – This morning, District Court Judge H. Russell Holland ordered a temporary delay of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act process to protect Bristol Bay, and directed the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) to rewrite its complaint against the federal agency.
“It’s unfortunate that Pebble’s litigation tactics are causing more delay in the public process to protect Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine, especially when 99% of some 650,000 public comments submitted to EPA supported a final action,” said Katherine Carscallen, commercial fisherman and board member of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA).
The judge found two of PLP’s arguments unlikely to succeed on the merits, casting doubt on Pebble’s charge of “collusion” between EPA and Alaskans opposed to the project. To its third claim, the judge requested that PLP resubmit its complaint against an EPA-sponsored science team for consideration by the court.
“Bristol Bay’s tribes, our commercial fishing fleet and thousands of Alaskans are eagerly awaiting the next step in EPA’s public process,” said BBRSDA Executive Director Sue Aspelund. “Our fishermen have weighed in on this time and again. They have waited a decade to move on from the threat of this mine.“
“Pebble has clearly decided that their only remaining hope is to delay the public process by any means necessary, including expensive and time-consuming lawsuits,” said Carscallen. “But this injunction does not call into question either the science of EPA’s watershed assessment or the overwhelming public opposition to the mine.”
Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game just released a pre-season forecast that puts Bristol Bay’s 2015 salmon return at 53 million fish – more than 50% over the Bay’s long-term average. Under EPA’s Clean Water Act process, fishermen could have seen this record run come in free and clear of the shadow of the Pebble Mine. “With this delay, we are once again left waiting on Pebble with uncertainty,” said Michael LaRussa, Bristol Bay fisherman and BBRSDA board member.
“It is unfortunate that political games and courtroom stalling tactics will cause continued uncertainty for the people of Bristol Bay,” said Aspelund. “They are the ones who asked EPA to consider protections for Bristol Bay’s headwaters, and as we look forward to another record-setting sustainable salmon run in Bristol Bay, it’s time to close the book on Pebble.”
The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) represents the 7,000 commercial salmon driftnet fishermen who harvest Bristol Bay sockeye salmon. Find them at fishermenforbristolbay.org and bbrsda.com.