EPA Bristol Bay Report: A Test of Obama’s Environmental Commitment

The EPA released its report Wednesday on the environmental impact of a massive mining project planned in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, concluding that the proposed Pebble Mine – the largest open pit mine in North America – could destroy up to 94 miles of streams where salmon spawn and migrate and up to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes.

The EPA has yet to make a decision on whether to green-light the project.

Greg Sargent argues that Pebble Mine is a big test for President Obama on the environment despite any economic benefits.

Although the Obama administration needs to weigh the project’s economic benefits against  potential environmental costs, “it’s not clear how big an economic boon this project would be to people in the surrounding communities … The Bristol Bay area already has a thriving economy centered around the sockeye salmon run.”

“Of course, President Obama has no direct control over the EPA. But he has many indirect methods at his disposal.”

“EPA employees shouldn’t fear to defend the collective commons aggressively, confident that President Obama has their backs. The fate of this project will tell us how confident the EPA feels.”

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