Politics
4:00 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

EPA's McCarthy Planning Trip To Bristol Bay Next Week

The new administrator is expected to meet with area tribes and tour the site of the proposed Pebble Mine.

DILLINGHAM:   KDLG News has learned that the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, is expected to be in Bristol Bay next week. Details of her trip were not immediately released, though it was suggested she may stop in Dillingham and Iliamna.

The EPA has come under fire in recent weeks for its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, which many suspect is laying the groundwork for the EPA to nix the Pebble Mine ahead of its permitting stage. Much of the skepticism has come in congressional hearings led by House and Senate Republicans.

According to the EPA, the investigation into what effects large-scale gold and copper mining could have on the Bristol Bay watershed was launched based on requests from several federally-recognized tribes. An EPA spokesperson said the agency takes very seriously its role in government-to-government role relations with tribes.

Several tribes, environmental groups, and fishing industry advocates have touted the EPA's Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment as evidence of the mine's threat to the region's world-famous salmon habitat. Those groups have continued to call for the agency to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to veto the Pebble mine sooner rather than later.

Critics of the assessment have railed against the agency's decision to use hypothetical mining models instead of waiting for the Pebble Partnership to submit its mining plans. Some also believe that the agency has overstepped its bounds, and spent millions of dollars on the unnecessary study.

According to the EPA, a final version of the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment may be released this year, which is more than a year behind schedule.

McCarthy replaced Lisa Jackson as the head of the EPA. Senate Republicans made an effort to stall McCarthy's nomination, but she was confirmed on a 59-40 vote on July 18th, 2013.