Review Panel Hears Testimony on EPA's Mining Assessment; Suggests Improvements

A peer review continues on the EPA's assessment of potential mining impacts in Bristol Bay.

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by Megan Mazurek

A review panel hears testimony Tuesday (8/7) on the Environmental Protection Agency's recent assessment of the potential mining impacts in Bristol Bay.
Released earlier this year, the EPA's assessment found that even without failures in a long term mining project, like Pebble Mine, there would likely be negative impacts on fish due to blocked streams, removal of wet lands and changes in hydrology.
The panel of twelve was publicly nominated and picked through independent research. They are experts ranging from hydrology, seismology, engineering and have years of experience in the mining field.
Concerned citizens and others invested in the project were able to give testimony on potential effects to Alaska native culture, potential failures, mine scenarios and any other concerns they felt would be beneficial for the panel to hear.
The speakers on the highly controversial topic followed suite of what's been echoed in previous public testimony; some supported the project and others were against it.
Supporters felt the mine would be the type of economic boost the area needs but fears the federal government is trying to stop development; a common theme, critics say, can be found throughout the state. A number of residents in Bristol Bay said the development would halt their subsistence living and cause harm to the future generations.
One speaker thought the assessment was unrealistic and didn't think the EPA was being objective or thorough enough as they failed to utilize an impact statement done in 2005 by the Borough of Land Management in it's assessment.
"I think as reviewers you have to ask how and why would scientists with the EPA ignore a recently implemented three year public process," said Gregory Beischer, CEO of Millrock Resources. "I conclude the EPA is not object and they're not being thorough in their work."
Wednesday the panel answered 14 charge questions on the draft assessment while taking testimony into consideration.
Panels members suggested the assessment expand the portion of identifying potential uncertainties and address past possible impacts. The critiques of the assessment will be used to possibly build a better design of the mine or approach to developing the area.
Thursday (8/9) the meeting will be closed to the public to allow peer reviewers to prepare for their final comments. The reviews will be submitted to EPA's contractor, Vesar. Later this fall, Vesar will release its report of the peer review to the public.