Washington congressional delegation applauds EPA ban on Pebble mine project

Democratic U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell, left, and Patty Murray of Washington

Southwest Washington’s congressional delegation voiced their support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent decision to prevent the proposed Pebble mine project at Bristol Bay in Alaska.

The proposed gold and copper mine, located on Alaska’s southwest edge, would have deposited industrial waste into the region’s waterways, potentially harming one of the world’s largest salmon fisheries.

This move by the federal agency is an environmental win, not only for Alaska, but for many other states, including Washington. According to the New York Times, Washington state residents possess roughly one-fourth of commercial fishing permits on Bristol Bay sockeye salmon.

“No company will ever be able to stick a mine on top of some of the best salmon habitat in the world,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in a speech following the decision. “Salmon fishermen from Alaska and from my home state of Washington will continue to earn their livelihoods from Bristol Bay salmon as they have for generations.”

This decision marks the end of a long battle. In 2011, Cantwell was the first senator to publicly oppose any large mining projects in Bristol Bay. According to a press release, the region’s salmon fisheries support 15,000 jobs in the Pacific Northwest.

Since 2011, Catnwell led several efforts to ban the Pebble mine, including requests to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to hold public hearings on the project in Washington state.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has also opposed the project during her tenure in the U.S. Senate. In 2017, she and 43 other members of Congress sent former President Donald Trump a letter urging him to hold public hearings and listen to Washington businesses before rolling back environmental protection laws on Bristol Bay.

“Today the EPA took a long overdue step in using its unique and rarely used authority to protect the similarly unique and pristine waters of the Bristol Bay watershed,” Murray said in a press release.

U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, also approved of the EPA’s decision. Last week, Gluesenkamp Perez wrote a letter to the environmental agency’s administrator, asking him to block the project to help preserve Washington’s fishing economy.

“Our state relies on healthy salmon fisheries, and in Congress, I’ll continue to fight for Washington’s fishing families and way of life,” Gluesenkamp Perez said.

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