Fishing groups upset with Murkowski over Pebble actions

JUNEAU (AP) — A group of lodge owners and guides has expressed disappointment with Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s support of a bill that would limit when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could use its so-called “veto authority” under the federal Clean Water Act.

Nineteen individuals signed onto a letter to Alaska’s senior senator, featured in a full-page ad Wednesday in the Anchorage Daily News, the state’s largest newspaper.

Last month, Murkowski became a co-sponsor of legislation that would limit to the permitting stage when EPA could act to restrict or prohibit use of a certain area for disposal of dredged or fill material. Murkowski raised concerns when EPA announced this year that it was initiating the process under the Clean Water Act in relation to the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region before the project had even moved into the permitting phase. That process is still underway, with no final decisions made.

EPA has rarely used this authority. Since the early 1970s, EPA has decided in 13 cases to take steps to limit or prohibit activity, once prior to a permit application being submitted, the agency’s administrator has said.

Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon said the Republican’s support of the bill isn’t about Pebble but rather is about process and precedent. He said by email that if EPA is allowed to veto projects “before, during, and long after relevant permits are considered, that will take the very last vestiges of certainty away from investors.”

Brian Kraft, a lodge owner with several businesses in the Bristol Bay region who signed onto and paid for the ad, said the bill would allow EPA only a short window of time to evaluate a project and the need for possible protections.

He said the concern raised about EPA preemptively shutting down projects is a “red herring” given how sparingly the authority has been exercised in the past.

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