May 7, 2012
Mr. Dennis McLerran
EPA Region X
1200 Sixth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Via email to McLerran.Dennis@epa.gov
Re: EPA Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment and Potential Section 404(c) Action
Dear Mr. McLerran:
The Resource Development Council (RDC) for Alaska writes to further express disappointment in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) unprecedented and potentially devastating premature assessment of the Bristol Bay Watershed and Potential Section 404(c) Action.
RDC is an Alaskan non-profit, membership-funded organization founded in 1975. The RDC membership is comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, timber, tourism, and fisheries industries, as well as Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to link these diverse interests together to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.
Federal, state, and local processes are a very important part of all projects in Alaska. RDC members involved in permitting energy, mining, and other natural resource development projects on the vast federal land holdings in Alaska, and on State, Native corporation and other private lands where federal permits are required must all follow the permitting process. A preemptive ruling on any one project could effectively create a dangerous precedent for future projects.
The Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment singles out a project area on state land where there hasn’t even been an application submitted to a federal agency proposing a permit be issued. The assessment could cause delay and confusion to projects all over Alaska. Unfortunately, many of these projects – both onshore and offshore – have already experienced extensive multi-year permitting delays, administrative appeals, and litigation from third parties, hampering the economy and holding back thousands of job opportunities for Alaskans and other citizens across the Lower 48 states.
A preemptive decision, prior to permit or project application, is unacceptable whether it be approval or denial of any project. An assessment of this type will likely not provide for adequate time for review, and it will likely disregard any potential benefits from a project. Assessments prior to project design and permit application will be highly speculative and will lack scientific credibility.
Any action that would preemptively halt development in Bristol Bay would compromise the State’s ability to build a diversified economy from its land base. Alaska’s economy must attract investment and create jobs, and should not be further negatively impacted by uncertainty in processes.
In conclusion, RDC requests the EPA cease work on the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment and 404(c) proceedings until it has a formal permit application in front of it, before further negative ramifications transform from preemptive decisions on projects.
Thank you for your attention to RDC’s concerns on this important issue.
Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.