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Despite repeated requests from Alaskan lawmakers, including the Alaskan Attorney General and Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Environmental Protection Agency appears to be steadfast on charting its own path for Alaska, and providing only a very short time period for interested parties to provide commentary on the EPA’s recent watershed assessment of the proposed Pebble Mine:
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today criticized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for refusing to give Alaskans more time to comment on the agency’s controversial watershed assessment of the Bristol Bay region.
“The EPA’s refusal to provide additional time for the public to comment on the draft watershed assessment for Bristol Bay demonstrates, once again, that the agency does not understand Alaska,” Murkowski said. “There is no deadline – other than the one arbitrarily imposed by the EPA – that requires the agency to act now.”
Murkowski raised her concerns about the limited comment period directly with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Murkowski said the comment period, which is currently scheduled to close July 23, coincides with the busy summer season in Alaska, when many Alaskans are out commercial or subsistence fishing.
As Senator Murkowski points out, there doesn’t appear to be any reason to wrap this “commentary” period up right away, unless the EPA’s next step is just to attempt to use their authority to deny a permit which has not yet been applied for. It’s not clear if the EPA can legally do this, and it doesn’t appear that politicians in Alaska would support the EPA if they were to do this, as even Democratic Senator Mark Begich has urged the EPA to not preemptively rule against mineral development in Alaska:
I remain opposed to any pre-emptive decision on the Pebble mine. While the project needs to meet a high hurdle – protecting the world’s largest and most valuable salmon run – developers should be allowed to present their project, and it should succeed or fail on its merits. [Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska)]
The last thing the country needs right now is an overzealous EPA dictating from Washington, D.C. how the rest of the country should live their lives. The federal government cannot even properly manage the land it owns in Alaska right now, and we should trust them to further authority?