The Northern Center joins in Appeal of EPA Discharge Permit for the Red Dog Mine
Together with Native Villages and another conservation organization the NAEC took a strong step to protect clean water in Alaska by joining an appeal of EPA's new discharge permit for the Red Dog Mine.
EPA Allows More Pollution from Red Dog Mine, Threatening Alaska’s Water Resources and Jeopardizing Health and Jobs
Native Villages and Conservation Groups File Appeal of Clean Water Act Permit
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reissued a Clean Water Act permit that allows the Red Dog Mine to discharge more pollution into Red Dog Creek, which flows into Ikalukrok Creek and the Wulik River, the source of drinking water for the City of Kivalina. The pollution allowed under the permit threatens Alaska’s water resources and places the health and jobs of village residents in jeopardy.
Teck Alaska, Inc., which has operated the Red Dog Mine for the past 20 years, applied to renew its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to expand mining operations into the Aqqaluk Deposit, which will extend the life of the mine by another 20 years. Despite 20 more years of operations at Red Dog, which the EPA has penalized for violating the previous permit, the EPA reissued a permit that allows significantly more pollution by relaxing permit limits for toxics such as lead, zinc, and cyanide, as well as total dissolved solids and ammonia. EPA’s concession to the mine constitutes illegal “backsliding” under the Clean Water Act.
The new permit also sacrifices a two-mile-long stretch of Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden habitat in order to dilute the mine’s waste instead of using feasible pollution controls at the point where the mine discharges into Red Dog Creek.
EPA issued the permit over the objections of the local tribal governments most affected by the mine’s waste and despite a promise by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to promote environmental justice, aggressively implement the Clean Water Act, address mine pollution, and respect tribal governments.
“This new permit is a license to pollute and EPA Administrator Jackson has broken her promise to us. While we support economic development, our drinking water and the health of Wulik River fish, which are an important source of food for our village, are being sacrificed by EPA to appease Teck.” said Enoch Adams, a resident of Kivalina. “It would be better for everyone if the agency would just do its job right.”
“Teck’s first 20 years of operation has affected our subsistence way of life,” said Lily Tuzroyluke, Executive Director of the Native Village of Point Hope Tribal Council. “We can’t allow more pollution to make things worse. We want to be certain that our food, our health, and jobs are protected.”
The Native Village of Kivalina IRA Council, the Native Village of Point Hope IRA Council, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, and Kivalina residents Enoch Adams, Jr., Joseph Swan, Sr., Leroy Adams, Andrew Koenig, and Jerry Norton today appealed the NPDES permit to ensure that EPA does its job to safeguard Alaskan’s water resources, and the health of its citizens. The appeal automatically stays the permit from going into effect. The appellants are represented by the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment and Trustees for Alaska, nonprofit law firms.
“The mine’s discharges harm the area that residents of Point Hope and Kivalina use for subsistence and the agencies must meet their obligation to ensure that the water, plants and animals that residents rely on are safe,” said Pam Miller, Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “It is the responsibility of the agencies to protect the health of the people, not merely to concede to industry interests.”
The Tribes and groups submitted extensive comments identifying the inadequacies of the permit; nonetheless, EPA glossed over the illegalities and reissued the permit that violates federal Clean Water Act and Alaska water quality standards. In doing so, the EPA almost exclusively relied on representations made by the State rather than conducting its own analysis.
“EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recently announced that the EPA would focus its work in 2010 on the protection of our nation’s waters, stating that the EPA will take steps to address water quality impacts associated with mining,” said Brook Brisson, Clean Water and Mining Program Director at the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. “It is unfortunate that the EPA is not staying true to its word and instead issued a permit that allows for increased pollution from mining operations.”
The Tribes and groups also appealed the State’s certification of the reissued NPDES permit for the Red Dog Mine in mid-January (see news article on the State Certification appeal, below).