Bristol Bay tribes, businesses and commercial fishermen file motion to intervene in Northern Dynasty Minerals & Pebble Limited Partnership's lawsuit challenging EPA's final Clean Water Act decision for Bristol Bay

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(Dillingham, Alaska) — On Friday, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, the Bristol Bay Native Association, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and the Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay joined forces filed a motion to intervene in a challenge brought by Northern Dynasty Minerals and Pebble Limited Partnership. This was directed against the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to protect our nation's clean waters from mining at the Pebble ore deposit.

After decades of research, the EPA concluded that the mine would have unacceptable negative impacts on Bristol Bay's resources, fishing industry and communities. Northern Dynasty's challenge to the EPA decision was filed in federal court in Alaska, and the Bristol Bay organizations sought to intervene in the case to ensure that the interests of the region, its indigenous communities, resources, environment and economy remain protected and secured .

Below you will find statements from the organizations that submitted the request for intervention:

“With today’s submission, the people of Bristol Bay are standing up for our region and our way of life. For decades, the Bristol Bay Tribes, the majority of Alaskans and people across the country have expressed their opposition to Northern Dynasty and its plans to develop Pebble Mine,” said Shelley Cotton, Chief Strategy Director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “The Environmental Protection Agency’s final decision on the Clean Water Act is the result of years of efforts by our employees to protect the place we call home. We made our voices heard around the world. And now we bring our voices to court.”

“A pebble mine would threaten the world's most pristine habitat for wild sockeye salmon, tens of thousands of fishing-related jobs, and a millennia-old salmon-based Alaska Native culture.” The EPA relied on sound science, a thorough process, and the voices of tens of thousands of Alaska residents to issue their final decision under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act,” said Russell Nelson, BBNC Board Chair. “While we are confident that these basic facts will stand up in court, Congress can and should also resolve this matter by providing additional protections to Bristol Bay. Rep. Peltola’s Bristol Bay Protection Act is a good starting point, and we look forward to working with the entire Alaska delegation to ensure Bristol Bay’s future remains free of silica mining.”

“As we head into a new fishing season, it is frustrating and disappointing to have to battle Pebble Limited Partnership again. “The men and women who fish Bristol Bay every summer and feed people from coast to coast deserve better than to worry that destructive mining projects like Pebble Mine will pollute the watershed and take away their jobs,” said Nels Ure, communications director at CFBB. “This intervention is a testament to our unwavering commitment to protecting this invaluable region that is home to tribes, communities, fishermen and wildlife. While we are confident that the court will uphold the protections of EPA's Clean Water Act, the people of Alaska and everyone who relies on this watershed deserve lasting assurance that Bristol Bay will be protected from Pebble Mine and all other destructive mining projects becomes. It is critical that our elected officials pass legislation to forever protect all of Bristol Bay.”

“As companies that rely on Bristol Bay and its salmon fisheries, we know how important the protections of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act are. “Bristol Bay is critical to providing high-quality, sustainable seafood to consumers around the world,” said Liliani Dunn, executive director of the Bristol Bay Seafood Development Association. “Unfortunately, Pebble Limited Partnership has not given up the fight for its destructive mining project – despite scientific evidence showing that this project would inevitably damage the Bristol Bay watershed and the public's strong opposition – which is why it is critical that we submit this request for intervention. We are committed to working with tribes, fishermen and local communities to ensure Bristol Bay is protected for our future generations.”

“Culturally and spiritually, Bristol Bay’s salmon fisheries are the lifeblood of our tribal communities. It is deeply disappointing that Pebble Limited Partnership and the State of Alaska are attempting to place the profits of a foreign mining company over our critical resources that have sustained our customary and traditional way of life for generations, and over a resource that people around the world enjoy said Anthony Gregorio, CEO of the Bristol Bay Native Association. “We intervened in the Pebble Limited Partnership case to show broad support for the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Water Act decision in this specific case for this specific project – protections based on research, science and law. The court must affirm the EPA's final decision and reject Pebble's case.

“Preserving Bristol Bay and its pristine watershed is not only an environmental issue, but also an economic issue. The region's commercial fishing industry supports thousands of jobs and generates over $2 billion in revenue each year. This economic engine was under threat until the Environmental Protection Agency stepped in and prevented Pebble Limited Partnership from developing its toxic removal project,” said Michael Link, President/CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. “Unsurprisingly, Pebble is refusing to take no for an answer and is back in court, grasping at straws and attempting to challenge the EPA’s final decision on the Clean Water Act. We felt it was critical to intervene in this case to protect Bristol Bay and everything it supports from destruction. While we are confident the court will dismiss this frivolous case, it further demonstrates the urgency for our elected officials to pass legislation to forever protect Bristol Bay.”

EPA's Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay span two decades of research, scientific studies, and public engagement processes, making the Pebble Mine proposal the most studied mining proposal in American history. This decision also reflects the will of the overwhelming majority of Bristol Bay and Alaska residents.

Bristol Bay and its salmon preserve the cultural and spiritual identity of the region's tribes and people, provide more than 50 percent of the world's wild sockeye salmon, support an economy worth over $2.2 billion, and employ tens of thousands of people in the fishing industry , hunting and sport fishing, outdoor recreation and tourism.

The State of Alaska filed a challenge to the EPA's final decision after Pebble filed, and that case is now before the same court as the Pebble challenge. The Bristol Bay teams are currently considering how best to protect the Final Determination from this challenge.

Anna Harden

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