2017 Settlement Agreement Between EPA and Pebble Limited Partnership
On May 11, 2017, EPA entered into a settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership to resolve litigation from 2014 relating to EPA's prior work in the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska.
The settlement provides the Pebble Limited Partnership (Pebble) an opportunity to apply for a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before EPA may move forward with its CWA process to specify limits on the disposal of certain material in connection with the potential “Pebble Mine.”
Key Terms of the Settlement
- Pebble and the U.S. Department of Justice (on behalf of the EPA) will ask the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska to dismiss the cases with prejudice and to lift the court-ordered preliminary injunction.
- EPA agrees to commence a process to propose to withdraw the currently pending proposed determination, consistent with its regulations.
- EPA agrees that it will not move to the next step in its CWA process, which would be to issue a recommended determination (determination steps are: proposed, recommended, final), until 48 months from settlement or until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issues its final environmental impact statement, whichever comes first. To take advantage of this period of forbearance, Pebble would have to file its permit application within 30 months.
- Pebble will drop its lawsuits and requests for fees against EPA, and agree to file no new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests during the pendency of the "forbearance" period.
- EPA may use its scientific assessment regarding the Bristol Bay Watershed without limitation.
In 2014, under the previous administration, EPA’s Region 10 completed a multi-year watershed assessment in Bristol Bay, and then issued a CWA Section 404(c) proposed determination, which described restrictions on large-scale mining in the watershed. Section 404 is the part of the CWA that governs the permit evaluation process for actions that discharge dredged or fill material into a covered water.
The May 11, 2017 settlement does not guarantee or prejudge any particular outcome to this process, but does ensure that the process will be carried out in a fair, transparent, deliberate, and regular way.