EPA: Mining Activity in Alaskan Watershed Harmful to Wildlife

392886 08: This undated photo shows a grizzly bear in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The Bush administration''s controversial plan to open the refuge to oil drilling was approved by the House of Representatives on August 2, 2001, but it faces a tough battle in the Democrat-controlled Senate.  (National Journal)

An Environmental Protection Agency report examining the potential environmental impacts of mining activity in Alaska's Bristol Bay Watershed concluded that industrial-scale mining operations would endanger salmon species and other wildlife, according to Reuters.

"Our report concludes that large-scale mining poses risks to salmon and the tribal communities that have depended on them for thousands of years," Dennis McLerran, EPA's regional administrator in the Pacific Northwest, said in a statement.

Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals, a company looking to build a copper and gold mine in the watershed, immediately dismissed the decision as biased.

"We believe EPA set out to do a flawed analysis," Ron Thiessen, the company's CEO, said in a statement.

Republican lawmakers were also quick to slam the report.

"EPA is setting a dangerous precedent by justifying its political prejudices on a flawed assessment based on hypotheticals," Sen. David Vitter, R-La., Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member, said in a statement. "This is a very scary signal that the EPA is sending to businesses — that they are capable of and willing to kill a project before an application is even submitted."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, also criticized the assessment, calling it preemptive and unnecessary, given that Northern Dynasty has not yet applied for a permit to construct the proposed mine.

"If the EPA has concerns about the impact of a project, there is an appropriate time to raise them — after a permit application has been made, not before," Murkowski said in a statement.