The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday that it would suspend rolling back environmental regulations preventing mining near a watershed in southwest Alaska.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made plans in May to clear regulations around Bristol Bay, Alaska, and allow mining companies to submit proposals for development in the area. Bristol Bay has been off limits to such proposals since 2014, when the Obama administration used a rarely referenced provision of the Clean Air Act to prevent mining activities in the area.
A mine “would result in complete loss of fish habitat due to elimination, dewatering, and fragmentation of streams, wetlands, and other aquatic resources” in certain areas around Bristol Bay, home to the world’s most valuable salmon fishery, CNN reports.
The “losses would be irreversible,” the agency said.
Pruitt spoke with mining company CEO Tom Collier of Pebble Limited Partnership just before making the decision to rollback protections, according to CNN.
“We have restored process, reviewed comments, and heard from a variety of stakeholders on whether to withdraw the proposed restrictions in the Bristol Bay watershed,” Pruitt said in a statement Friday after putting the regulation rollback on hold. “Based on that review, it is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there.”
“Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection,” Pruitt continued. “Today’s action allows EPA to get the information needed to determine what specific impacts the proposed mining project will have on those critical resources.”
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