Listen to public about Pebble Mine issues

By Nina Faust

Bristol Bay’s fishery is a critical part of Alaska’s economy, providing 12,000 jobs and over $1.5 billion in income. We produce most of the wild salmon consumed in the United States and our fishery will keep producing income and jobs for Alaskans as long as we protect Bristol Bay. But Alaskans know that a large Outside corporation has proposed the world’s largest open-pit mine in Bristol Bay and the science shows that the mine and salmon cannot coexist.
Sadly, the science doesn’t matter to the Parnell/Treadwell Administration. Pebble Partnership, the Outside corporation made up of Anglo-American and Northern Dynasty, has received over 150 permits from the state. State politicians say they “won’t trade salmon for gold” but their actions speak louder than words. Even though Pebble Partnership still refuses to disclose its mine plans, the state has handed over every permit needed for the mine to move forward.
The Parnell/Treadwell Administration keeps handing over these permits even while Pebble Partnership breaks the law. Pebble has illegally withdrawn water from 45 different sources near the proposed mine.  Why is it necessary for Pebble to break the law? Thanks to the Parnell/
Treadwell Administration, Pebble already has permits to withdraw 32 million gallons of water per year.
Of course, if HB 77 is passed by the Alaska legislature, the situation would be even worse. HB 77 would eliminate Alaskans’ ability to reserve water for our fisheries. It would give the commissioner carte blanche authority to grant permits for massive projects like Pebble without  regard to the impact on Alaskans’ livelihoods.
Even in the absence of HB 77, the Administration has tried to steamroll public opposition and permit Pebble mine. At a discussion of the Mat-Su Business Alliance, Lt. Governor Treadwell said that since Pebble was “invited” into Alaska the administration wouldn’t “pull the rug out” from under them. Treadwell’s statement shows a gross misunderstanding of Pebble’s history and the permitting process. Alaskans most certainly did NOT “invite” Pebble to destroy our best wild salmon fishery. Nor should Pebble be allowed to go forward just because they applied for some permits. The whole point of the permitting process is to examine the potential impacts of the mine and make an informed decision about whether it should be permitted.
Fortunately, that kind of unbiased scientific investigation is exactly what the Environmental Protection Agency is doing. We’ll know more when their study is complete, but one thing is certain: We need agencies to make decision based on science, not politics. The Parnell/Treadwell Administration has lost all credibility in this regard. Their decisions to grant dozens of permits, ignore illegal water withdrawals, and promote legislation to eliminate any public oversight of Pebble has destroyed their credibility as impartial arbiters of the permitting process.
If our own governor is just a shill for Pebble, then we depend on the Environmental Protection Agency to do its job, look at the science and not be influenced by politics. Our largest salmon fishery, 12,000 sustainable jobs and $1.5 billion in annual income is at stake.

Nina Faust is a Homer-area resident and founder of Kachemak Crane Watch.

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Posted by on Aug 27th, 2013 and filed under Point of View. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses for “Listen to public about Pebble Mine issues”

  1. The EPA is doing zero boots-on-the-ground scientific investigation and they have ignored volumes of data and studies published by Pebble. It’s a desk study only. Alaskan regulators have been working with Pebble on the nearly $200 M worth of original research done on the ecosystem surrounding the upstream deposit. The Governor, regulators, and Alaskans working at Pebble uphold the laws of Alaska to balance conservation and development. There were never any laws broken re. water withdrawals – two different regulatory agencies issued overlapping permits which did not clarify the rules. Nevertheless, Pebble paid a fine and there have been no adverse environmental effects from exploration. The opportunity to assess the mine based on real science and engineering plans should be allowed, or Alaska falls into camp with Argentina, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and other places investors will not go near. The only thing truly sustainable about the fishery in Bristol Bay is the share of jobs and profits flowing outside to folks in Washington and Oregon. They nearly wiped out the salmon in the 1930s. Pebble should be critically assessed and the state must ensure regulations are rigorous and thorough, but the process is long and complex. The public will continue to have many more opportunities to partake in discussions and decisions. There’s no need for 404c.

    • dylan –

      “no adverse impacts from exploration?”

      are you kidding? when i flew over the area, i saw dozens of kettle ponds filled with drilling muds and cuttings – they dotted the landscape.

      when i landed, i saw spilled hydraulic fluid and fuel leaks.

      and please don;t suggest the public can have a meaningful voice in the permitting process. that’s just more industry spin. everyone knows the state will grant every permit requested; that’s why it’s important for EPA or the Corps to stand up and enforce the law.

      Bob Shavelson
      Cook Inletkeeper

  2. Within HB 77, Governor Parnell and Lt. Governor Treadwell hope to restructure the state-level permitting process on or near wetlands and coastal zones. HB 77 essentially dismantles the state’s permitting process, or rather, streamlines it in favor of companies like Pebble Limited Partnership. Yet, the administration has for years been defending the state of Alaska’s own permitting process saying that it is rigorous enough for thorough review. So there lies my question: why dismantle a permitting process that has been rigorous enough for years? And then secondly, has the permitting process ever been rigorous enough? The state of Alaska has never denied a mining permit and Alaska is labeled as one of the most friendly permitting environments in both North and South America.

    The EPA has a mine plan issued within the Wardrop Report by PLP to assess a dredge and fill 404 permit. The size, scope and location of the Pebble Mine will not change by waiting for PLP to file permits – the Wardrop Report was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and its 500 pages clearly outline the size, scope and location of a mine 2000 feet deep and 2 miles wide. Many Alaskans appreciate mining activity in locations that will not cause adverse impacts on our environment, myself included, and Alaskans will also appreciate to know in advance if the EPA will restrict dredge and fill permits given the known information. It is best for everyone including the mining companies to know as early as possible if a 404 permit will be denied before companies like PLP continues to invest their hundreds of millions of dollars.

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