Trout Unlimited strongly opposes the inappropriately named, “Regulatory Certainty Act” (HR 4854). The bill would prevent the EPA from carrying out its ability granted by the Clean Water Act to protect the world-class fisheries of Bristol Bay.
The first hearing on the bill is scheduled in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in Washington, D.C. for Tuesday morning. Though they will cover EPA’s 404(c) authority, which is the process requested by United Tribes of Bristol Bay to protect Alaskan salmon from large-scale mining in the region, no Alaskan witnesses were allowed to testify. “It is shameful that the committee would not allow any Bristol Bay residents to testify at the committee as it discusses a measure that would directly affect them,” said Tim Bristol, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “The committee has turned its back on the very communities who depend on clean water for their livelihoods, first by scheduling this hearing while they are all out fishing, and then rejecting requests of residents who were willing to testify.”
Bristol Bay is threatened by one of the most potentially damaging mines ever proposed in the United States. At the urging of Alaska Native communities, commercial and sport fishing industries, and with the support of a majority of Alaskans, EPA has moved forward with a science-based, transparent 404(c) process that could protect Bristol Bay salmon, which provides half of the world's wild sockeye salmon catch. The Bristol Bay fishery is worth in excess of $1.5 billion per year. The 404(c) process can finally provide certainty to the 14,000 fishing and processing jobs in the region, which generate $250 million in seafood exports alone from the region, as well as lodge owners, and Alaska Natives who depend on the fishery and who have all been in flux waiting to see if their waters will be threatened by the Pebble Mine.
While the Bristol Bay fishermen are out on the water, the committee plans to give Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) a gift-wrapped present, HR 4854, rewarding its inexplicable and inexcusable failure to submit a permit application after eight years of promising to do so. PLP has lost most of its financial backing because of the inherent risks of the proposed mine, and its many failures to produce a viable mining plan. But now the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is rushing to take up PLP’s beleaguered cause. “Alaskans are once again disappointed, first by the state of Alaska, and now by continued Congressional action running counter to the needs and desires of commercial and sport fishermen, Bristol Bay residents and a majority of Alaskans,” said Bristol.
There is still time for the committee to see its mistakes and postpone the bill markup. “The committee should take a critical look at the damage its bills would cause to the Bristol Bay fishery,” said Bristol. “Trout Unlimited joins with the millions of anglers across America who desire salmon protections, and urges the committee to reconsider the many flaws of HR 4854 and the other bills affecting clean water on its docket, as the livelihood of thousands of Alaskans depends on it.”