Friday, May 12, 2017 was a great day for the future job creating economy of Alaska. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pebble Partnership arrived at an agreement that will allow Pebble to proceed for permitting of their proposed mine north of Lake Iliamna. In the middle of one of the worst statewide recessions since the late 1980s, we suddenly start opening the door for 16,000 new, high paying, long term jobs in one of the poorest parts of the state. https://corporate.pebblepartnership.com/news-article.php?s=pebble-epa-reach-resolution-in-long-standing-dispute
In the agreement, the EPA allows Pebble to proceed with normal course permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Pebble needs to file permit applications within 30 months. The EPA cannot use its CWA Section 404c authority until an Environmental Impact Statement is complete within 48 months. The EPA to start a process to withdraw the Proposed Determination issued in July 2014. In return, Pebble agrees to halt legal actions against the EPA.
My experience is that the EPA does not negotiate with anyone unless they have been caught with their pants down. The collusion between EPA employees, paid consultants, grant recipients, various green groups, Trout Unlimited, and tribal opposition in preparation of the Watershed Assessment would have all come out in court, opening many of those participants to RICO prosecution. In short, the EPA and its allies committed fraud upon the general public, all in the name of stopping this mine. This is why they settled. This is why they were in negotiation for a settlement long before the Trump Administration took office.
Expect the anti-Pebble groups to ramp up opposition again. Expect predictions of doom and gloom to come early and often. Expect massive hypocrisy from groups and individuals in opposition to the mine.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon fired the first round against Pebble Friday reprising the utter destruction of all salmon in the watershed. Methinks he protest too much, as the only threat to salmon in this state are commercial fishermen who are busily scouring mixed run salmon out of as many watersheds as humanly possible. Additionally, the Donlin Creek Mine is in Edgmon’s district and he likes that just fine. Perhaps it is because Donlin is Native owned. Perhaps not. http://www.novagold.com/properties/donlin_gold/overview/
The Sainted Bristol Bay Native Corporation, from the Land that Always Was will re-enter the fray. Of course, they are exploring hard rock mining on Corporation lands down the Peninsula (yes, within Bristol Bay) via their Milrock contractor. https://www.millrockresources.com/news/millrock-makes-exploration-agreement-with-bristol-bay-native-corporation-alaska-peninsula-alaska
Trout Unlimited, fresh off its successful ban of felt-soled wading boots statewide will be back in operation. Their value added to fishing here in Alaska has been precisely what? Better yet, has their action on felt soled boots made wading in the Russian any safer for those of us who would rather not swim in fast-moving 40-degree water?
Senator Lisa ‘44%’ Murkowski issued a rather non-descript press release that included verbiage that we would never trade salmon for gold. Interesting viewpoint that, for what do the commercial fishermen do every single day but trade salmon for gold?
While this is exceptional news, do not minimize the ability of the democrats infesting the Walker administration to screw it up, starting with all manner of speedbumps and roadblocks out of Andy Mack and his Department of Natural Resources who took the first pot shot at Pebble last month via a requirement to post a bond for cleaning up exploratory wells, something never demanded previously. http://www.alaskajournal.com/2017-04-11/dnr-approves-pebble-permit-conditions
At best, the agreement gets the process started again. At worst, it spins up the opposition to previous levels. But this time around, with the state mired in the worst recession since the late 1980s, can we afford not to do Pebble and do it right? The time for knee-jerk opposition is over. We have people to employ, people to feed, people to wean off the welfare rolls. And Pebble is a large step in that direction.
Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He is a small business owner and Information Technology professional.