Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski surprised by Environmental Protection agency over mine project

Senator Lisa Murkowski has not officially taken a position for or against the Pebble mine project. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
If you were surprised when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took a left turn on the proposed Pebble mine last month, you’re not alone. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was, too.

Pruitt announced a decision to keep alive a proposal from the Obama administration to protect the headwaters of Bristol Bay, a proposal Murkowski and other Republicans had complained was egregious federal overreach.

Murkowski says she got the news from Pruitt, just before the public announcement.

“I think I was just generally surprised. And I think part of it is because the administrator has typically taken an approach that less reg – I don’t want to say less regulation …. ,” Murkowski said, pausing to choose her words carefully. “He has been more favorably inclined to find paths forward where there have been regulatory impediments placed.”

“A pre-emptive veto”

Murkowski has not taken a position for or against the mine. But she was highly critical when President Obama’s EPA proposed restrictions on Pebble, prohibiting it from damaging more than five miles of fish streams, among other limits. Murkowski called that a “pre-emptive veto.” Pebble had not yet applied for its permits. Murkowski says what the Trump administration has done is different.

“The action that they took does not halt Pebble’s application. It says that they may continue through that process,” Murkowski said. “That’s the difference.”

But Obama’s EPA administrator said her action wasn’t blocking Pebble’s application, either.

“If the company is ready for permit application, they’re still free to submit that, and we’d encourage that,” then-administrator Gina McCarthy said at a 2014 hearing, answering questions from Murkowski.

Pebble did not file its application until late last year. Murkowski says Administrator Pruitt wants a credible process and has set a high bar for Pebble to meet.

Related stories from around the North:

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

One thought on “Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski surprised by Environmental Protection agency over mine project

  • Sunday, February 11, 2018 at 08:48

    Read all about Obama EPA’ collusion and phony science to stop this project:

    For scientific support, the Assessment uses numerous studies by anti-mine activists. EPA quietly commissioned Peer Reviews of seven studies authored by anti-Pebble activists, presumably in hopes of bolstering their credibility. No studies supportive of the Pebble Project received any such treatment, including the Pebble Partnership’s $150 million contribution of the most comprehensive and relevant environmental data set available on the region. When EPA quietly had seven of those studies peer reviewed, EPA’s own peer reviewers found them to be biased and unreliable, but EPA used them anyway.

    EPA manipulated the peer review of the Assessment itself in a way designed to minimize criticism of the Assessment. EPA violated its own standards when, during the first peer review, it unduly restricted the schedule, shielded the peer reviewers from public comments, and then held a closed-door meeting with the peer review panel. During the second peer review, EPA shut out the public entirely, completely violating its own standards for transparency.

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