EPA chief: Pebble Mine decision to be based on science, not popularity

The Environmental Protection Agency's new administrator last week assured residents of an Alaska town that's ground zero in the battle over a mine of precious metals that the agency won't let public pressure sway its decision.

Lisa Reimers, CEO of the Iliamna Development Corp., said new EPA director Gina McCarthy's "fact-finding" visit to Iliamna was a good sign. The last EPA director, according to several community members, made no attempt to visit the proposed mine site or the people who call the remote country around Illiamna Lake home.

Reimers tells Watchdog.org the on-site visit left her with mixed feelings.

"I felt really good about (McCarthy) meeting with us, but at the end of the day I was so exhausted and still unsure of what could happen," she said.

McCarthy  met with community members in Dillingham, a hub city in the Bristol Bay region located about 135 air miles from Iliamna, and toured the site of the proposed large-scale copper and gold mine before holding private and public meetings with residents of Newhalen and Iliamna.

Reimers said McCarthy assured the people of Iliamna, a community of about 120 residents located some 180 air miles southwest of Anchorage, that the EPA's decision on whether to invoke a seldom-used but potent provision in the Clean Water Act would not be a "popularity contest," and that the entire process will be "based on science."

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