July 2013

26 July 2013

News roundup: Pebble project update and EPA watershed assessment news

In this week's round-up, news reports say Pebble will go to permitting by year-end, an EPA confirmation hearing brings attention to the cost of the Bristol Bay watershed assessment--and EPA tells one Bristol Bay community that it can not retract a report submitted for that assessment.

"Finishing plan top priority for Pebble"

The Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) continues to focus on completing its mine plan in a move toward starting permitting by the end of this year, according to an article by Tim Bradner in the Alaska Journal of Commerce. The draft plan will have three main parts: engineering/feasibility, environment, and economics. Bradner's article highlights PLP's shift from exploration to engineering, noting reductions in the number of drill rigs and crew operating this summer, as well as a lower budget ($80 million this year compared to $112 million in 2012.)

Read the full article (Alaska Journal of Commerce)

E&E news interview with Pebble CEO John Shively

In an E&E news report from earlier this summer, Manuel Quinones quotes Pebble Limited Partnership CEO John Shively saying there's a good chance the project will move into the permitting phase by the end of this year. Shively also comments on the EPA Bristol Bay watershed assessment and the nomination of Gina McCarthy as the new EPA administrator.

Read the full article (E&E news, as reprinted by www.savebristolbay.org)

EPA personnel hearings bring out details regarding its watershed assessment

Earlier this week Ken Kopocis answered questions about the EPA's Bristol Bay watershed assessment during a confirmation hearing for his nomination to become assistant administrator of the agency's water office. During the hearing, Kopocis noted that EPA had spent $2.4 million so far on the assessment. A previous letter to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works from EPA's acting water chief Nancy Stoner reiterated the agency's commitment to completing the document, stating that it is in the best interest of all stakeholders in Alaska.

Read the E&E article on EPA hearings  (E&E news, as reprinted by www.ndra.org)

Comments on EPA watershed assessment final

A recent Associated Press article highlighted the fact that public comments to the EPA are final once the official public input period is closed. On July 2, the Iliamna Village Council asked to retract a report it had submitted along with its comments to the EPA. According to an Associated Press article, professor emeritus at Colorado School of Mines Donald Macaldy was contracted by the village corporation to prepare an analysis of the EPA's Bristol Bay watershed assessment, and his report suggested broad impacts from proposed Pebble development. The Iliamna Village Council has voted to rescind the comments; EPA says they will remain part of the public record.

Read the full article. (AP, as run in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)

Read Macalady's report

Read more

09 July 2013

Senator's letter highlights lack of mine plan

In a July 1 letter to the Pebble Limited Partnership, Northern Dynasty Minerals and Anglo American, Senator Lisa Murkowski has asked developers of the proposed Pebble mine to set – and stick to – a timeline for a project plan and permit applications.

“The time has come to tell Alaskans whether and how you plan to proceed,” wrote Murkowski, who also detailed a decade of delays and contradictory statements developers have made referencing a project plan or upcoming permit application. None has yet materialized, though PLP has repeatedly asked stakeholders to hold off judging its project prior to the release of an official mine plan.

So, what's taking PLP so long? In a 2012 interview,PLP spokesman Mike Heatwole told Pebble Watch that both the complexity of the plan and developers’ wishes to present the information community by community,in an easy-to-understand format, were factors.

“The plan isn’t just about how the mine will be built; it also includes other components, such as closure and long-term monitoring, said Heatwole. “We’re … spending significant time working our way through closure,” he said. Even then, said Heatwole, the plan won’t be complete, but will change in response to technical and public feedback. “It’s helpful for folks to understand that the project that gets initially rolled out and put into permitting is not a final.”

In her recent letter, Murkowski reminded developers that she is in opposition to any possible action the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency might take to protect the Bristol Bay watershed prior to the permitting process, but said that failure to describe the Pebble project or submit a permit application has left communities frustrated, anxious and confused instead of optimistic about the opportunities the Pebble project might bring.

According to news reports, John Shively, PLP’s CEO, said he has plans to respond to Senator Murkowski directly regarding her concerns.

Read Murkowski’s letter

Read the Pebble Watch Guide: “Getting ready for the mine plan” (including our interview with Mike Heatwole)

Read more