EPA's Jackson focuses on Pebble mine, rural Alaska during visit

The head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency is meeting this week with Alaska village residents on matters ranging from the controversial Pebble mine project to federal spending on rural sanitation projects and coastal village erosion.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson was scheduled on Tuesday to visit four Southwest villages on Thursday: Kasigluk, Napakiak, Chefornak and Bethel.

Today, she is expected in Dillingham to meet with Bristol Bay region tribal governments, Native corporations and other local organizations to get their views on the proposed Pebble project. Jackson is also meeting with the Pebble Partnership, the consortium of mining companies hoping to develop the massive copper and gold prospect.

EPA has a critical role in the Pebble project: If the proposed mine's backers apply for development permits, EPA will be in charge of the proposed mine's environmental impact study. The companies have signaled that they might start applying for permits next year. "I think that part of the reason she's coming up to hear about Pebble is because the whole permit application process (is) getting closer and closer," said Ralph Anderson, chief executive of the Bristol Bay Native Association.

Jackson also faces some pressing concerns in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region.

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