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Defending Protections For Bristol Bay

Bristol Bay Orgs & TU file briefs in State of Alaska Lawsuit Against EPA

In January 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized Clean Water Act 404(c) safeguards for the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska. These protections prohibit the proposed Pebble Mine and were widely celebrated by Bristol Bay tribes, the commercial fishing industry, anglers and hunters, and numerous local communities that sought these protections for more than a decade. But these protections quickly came under attack this past summer when the State of Alaska took the unusual move of filing a lawsuit against the EPA directly in the U.S. Supreme Court instead of in federal District Court, as would be customary in a case like this.

This month, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB), Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) and TU filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to reject the State of Alaska’s atypical lawsuit. Typically, cases only reach the U.S. Supreme Court, if at all, after they are brought in federal District Court and appealed through a federal Court of Appeals.

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The amicus briefs submitted by UTBB, BBNC and TU provide important background context and legal arguments for why the U.S. Supreme Court should decline hearing the case and why the State of Alaska should follow the normal procedure of first suing the EPA in federal District Court.

“Governor Dunleavy is completely out of touch with the people he claims to represent with this outrageous lawsuit. Time and time again, the vast majority of Alaskans have called on our elected leaders to stop the proposed Pebble Mine, but Governor Dunleavy is clearly on a reckless mission to defend this dead project regardless of the law, science and cost to Alaskans,” said Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay.

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Trout Unlimited added additional legal details for the court’s consideration, including the fact that the State had the opportunity to raise their concerns in previous lawsuits and didn’t.

“While Alaska would apparently prefer to exploit Bristol Bay’s mineral deposits over its fishing and related industries, its alleged injury from the EPA’s determination would only be real if the state one day permitted the mining project, which it has not done and may never do,” said Austin Williams, director of federal relations for Trout Unlimited

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