Five groups representing people in Bristol Bay sue the EPA
CORRECTION: *** Bristol Bay Native Corporation has not sued EPA, but, some of their representatives spoke at the event.
Five groups representing a broad range of people in Bristol Bay sued the EPA today. They claim the agency's withdrawal of preemptive veto power that would have blocked the Pebble Mine violated two federal laws and they want it put back in place.
A legal battle over the pebble mine permitting process seemed inevitable. The only question is; what would spark the complaint? Tuesday, a coalition of 5 different organizations proved that the EPA withdrawing its proposed determination was the tipping point
Quoted from Robin Samuelson, A board member on the Bristol Bay Native Corporation; “We had no alternatives, they said you guys keep your mouth shut and go in the corner and sit. Well they might have been lucky to do that at the turn of the century. But today, hell no. We're not going to keep our mouths shut. We're going to fight these people till the end.”
The plaintiffs represent Alaska native tribes, commercial fishermen and the region's economic development corporation. They are asking a judge to rule that the EPA violated the clean water act and administrative procedure act. They’re also seeking to have the pre-emptive veto reinstated.
“We're not sure what will happen but it's hard for me to imagine us losing this. Because we want to protect our land and waters. The proposed determination went a long way to help us do that and what we see the actions by the administration and the state is being totally unlawful,” said Ralph Andersen, The Bristol Bay Native Association President.
The pebble partnership is not a party in the lawsuit, but the suit has the potential to halt the project.
Mike Heatwole, spokesperson for the company says he believes the EPA's action were legal.
“The initial reaction is that the case is clearly without merit, as the EPA acted appropriately and as such we believe the case will be dismissed.” Said Heatwole.
The lawsuit has the potential to become a lengthy and expensive endeavor but given what's at stake. The group says it’s ready for the fight.
“This mine has the potential to wipe out my native culture that's thrived for thousands and thousands of years. We will spend our last **** penny fighting this mine. There's no question in the Yup'ik's mind,” said Samuelson.
The lawsuit is not for any monetary damages but rather for declaratory and injunctive relief. The Earth Justice and Trustees for Alaska have also recently joined The Natural Resources Defense Council in the lawsuit.