The opponents of Pebble, the giant copper and gold prospect in Southwest Alaska, have asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency to invoke its potent and rarely used power to block the potential mine.
But U.S. Rep. Don Young late last month filed legislation seeking to strip the EPA of that authority.
Six tribes in the Bristol Bay region want the EPA to prohibit or restrict the disposal of mining waste in either of the two major river drainages that the Pebble deposit straddles -- the Nushagak and Kvichak, both major salmon-producing rivers. They want the EPA to take action before the companies that own Pebble's mining claims apply for any development permits on their state mining claims.
It's the latest salvo in the multimillion-dollar war being waged over Pebble, which if built would be the state's largest mine.
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On one side are sport and commercial fishermen, environmentalists and villagers worried about Pebble's potential impact on fisheries. On the other: proponents of the mine who argue Pebble can be developed safely and will supply hundreds of long-term jobs in a region where many villagers are struggling to find work.
Besides expensive ad campaigns for and against Pebble, the fight has involved efforts in Juneau and at the ballot box to tighten state mining rules and two Pebble-related lawsuits pending in state court.
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