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

Washington, 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 said.

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 existence.

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 creation.”

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 active area.

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,


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