House Science Democrats ask EPA to keep 404(c) determination against Pebble

Mar 1, 2017

Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat, penned strong rebuttal to chairman Lamar Smith's request that EPA rescind preemptive Pebble veto.

Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
Credit US Congress

The ranking Democrat on the US House Science Committee has now also reached out to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, asking him not rescind the agency’s work in the Bristol Bay watershed.

Audio Transcript: Last week the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology urged EPA to withdraw its preemptive action to block Pebble Mine. That determination was based on EPA’s authority under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.

Ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat, put her name on a letter to Pruitt Friday asking for the opposite, that EPA let the 404(c) determinations stand.

Johnson called attention to the “extensive, three year-long scientific peer-reviewed study” undertaken by EPA that detailed “the potential adverse impacts of the Pebble Mine on the environment, public health, and economic livelihood” of those who rely on Bristol Bay’s unique salmon runs. That scientific review, she wrote, was sought by Alaska citizens, conducted with technical rigor by EPA scientists, and was done transparently.

Johnson said the EPA proposed its preemptive veto because of the “inevitable environmental damage a mine in Bristol Bay would cause.” She also refuted claims that the agency had acted with a predetermined outcome or bias, pointing to EPA’s Inspector General’s findings from a 2016 report.

Johnson urged Pruitt to side with protecting "the environment and public’s health, not the potential profits of foreign mining entities."

The proposed 404(c) determinations were not finalized. A federal judge put a halt on EPA’s work on the project until a lawsuit brought by Pebble has been ruled on.

Congresswoman Johnson issued a statement the day Pruitt was confirmed as Administrator, calling him "unfit" to lead EPA.

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.