National Council applauds EPA science assessment
that warns of devastating impacts to Bristol Bay
Calls on EPA and Obama Administration
to permanently protect the bay
April 26, 2013 - The National Council of Churches today commended the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for issuing a second draft of the
Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment that details environmental threats to the
southern Alaska bay on the Bering Sea.
This extensive, scientific report details the negative impacts and
additional threats posed to Bristol Bay by large scale developments such as
the proposed Pebble Mine.
The Council issued the following statement:
“Bristol Bay is a stunning piece of God’s creation that supports a one of a
kind salmon fishery, a thriving and sustainable economy, and thousands of
Alaskan natives whose way of life and culture has been intertwined with the
health of Bristol Bay for more than 4000 years.
“In standing with our Orthodox brethren, thousands of whom call Bristol Bay
home, we encourage churches and congregations to comment on this important
report and urge the EPA to take the next logical and reasonable step: to use
the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay from the irreparable harm the
proposed Pebble mine would cause God’s people and creation in and around the
Bay. Doing so would preserve the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon
fishery, 14,000 American jobs, and a Native way of living that is thousands
of years old.”
The Rev. Michael Oleksa, a member of the Alaska Diocese of the Orthodox
Church in America who has served congregations in Alaska and Bristol Bay for
more than forty years, expressed gratitude for the EPA assessment.
“The Alaska Native people of the Bristol Bay region, faithful members of the
Orthodox Church in America, welcome the EPA report and thank all who
continue to support them in their struggle to preserve and protect the land
they love which has sustained them for countless generations,” Father Oleksa
The Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment was started in February 2011 to study
how hard rock mining on a massive scale would affect the region’s clean
waters, fish, wildlife and people, many of whom live a subsistence
The document found that in addition to many more risks, mining the Pebble
Mine deposit would destroy up to 90 miles of salmon streams and nearly 4,800
acres of wetland salmon habitat. The Assessment’s extensive scientific
analysis has been through two independent peer review panels, a 60-day
comment period, and eight public hearings.
Cassandra Carmichael, Director of the Washington Office for the National
Council of Churches, also welcomed the assessment.
Carmichael said the people of Bristol Bay “have relied on the bounty of
God’s creation and the Bay along with their subsistence traditions for
generations. More than 80 percent of Bay’s residents, the vast majority of
whom of are Alaskan Native, oppose the proposed Pebble Mine.”
“The science is clear - the basic infrastructure required for Pebble Mine
would be enough to threaten the health of the fishery and the livelihood of
thousands,” Carmichael said. “Large scale development such as Pebble Mine is
a threat to the rare beauty that defines this stunning part of God’s
Based on the Pebble Limited Partnership’s multiple filings and documents,
the mine would generate up to 10 billion tons of toxic waste that must be
stored and treated in perpetuity behind large earthen dams in a seismically
The mine is backed by Anglo American, one of the world’s largest mining
companies, which also has a disastrous record of environmental damage,
worker unrest, and now faces a lawsuit by thousands of gold miners who
suffer from a fatal lung disease.
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of
the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for
shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's
37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican,
Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace
churches -- include 40 million persons in more than 100,000 local
congregations in communities across the nation.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks,