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              Veteran musher Scott Janssen prepares salmon for his dogs before beginning the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Sunday, March 3, 2013, in Willow, Alaska. 65 teams will be making their way through punishing wilderness toward the finish line in Nome on Alaska

Liberals and conservatives support Pebble Mine

Alaska’s Pebble Mine has been heavily criticized by environmentalists who argue that it will damage salmon habitats and wetlands, but a politically diverse coalition is asking the government to follow the normal approval process.

The pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a local chapter of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, the Washington Post and the liberal Center for American Progress have all come out against the Environmental Protection Agency’s preemptively blocking the mining project.

“Regardless of whether you support or oppose the Pebble Mine project, we all should agree that a potential project has a right to go through the permitting process,” writes the Chamber of Commerce’s William Kovacs in a letter to the EPA. “That is one of the underlying reasons for having a permitting process in place. The permitting process protects our environment and natural resources while providing regulatory certainty to the regulated community.

The Pebble Mine has been the center of a political battle over the EPA’s power to veto large-scale mining projects under federal clean water laws. The agency issued its second draft assessment of the mine earlier this year and found that it could impact the local salmon fishery and surrounding wetlands.

However, Republicans and mine supporters have criticized the EPA’s review for not evaluating any of the actual plans for the mine — as none have been put forward.

“The current assessment undermines the existing process via a preemptive decision based on a hypothetical mine,” writes A.J. Merrick, business manager of LIUNA Local 13. “Every project should have an opportunity to be reviewed under the existing permitting process. If the process determines a project as designed cannot protect the environment and other resources, it will not advance.”

The George Soros-funded Center for American Progress has expressed support for the EPA’s review of the controversial mine, but is “not calling on the agency to pre-emptively veto the controversial Pebble LP mine” reports E&E News.

“All [the mine developers] want, they say, is a fair and thorough evaluation of their claims,” writes the Washington Post editorial board. “That is reasonable. If complete federal reviews find that the companies can’t protect the fishery, regulators can reject the project. But, given the potential economic value of the mine, they should hear the companies out.”

Mine supporters argue that the mine will create valuable jobs in the economically depressed region of southwest Alaska while also giving the U.S. greater mineral security. Opponents argue that the mine could damage the pristine environment in the surrounding area.