Norm Van Vactor spins a nice tale about Pebble and Gold in a recent column in the Dispatch. As with many tales, there are convenient sins of omission and a little clarification that warrant additional thought. https://www.adn.com/opinions/2017/07/20/alaskans-remain-opposed-to-pebble-project/
To begin with, Pebble is primarily a copper project but that’s not as quippy.
The Pebble opposition likes to tout numbers that make it appear there is overwhelming local opposition against Pebble. Regional organizations like the Bristol Bay Native Corporation oppose Pebble mostly as it competes with their own mining plans farther down the Alaska Peninsula. If mining is bad, why are they pursuing it?
There was a cute trick used in one EPA comment period where people promoted a trip to Alaska and the entry was signing a post card to the EPA. This generated volume but little substance.
There was a meeting held in Iliamna when the then EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited to look at Pebble firsthand. Local resident Janessa Woods spoke of her desire to have a job to get off welfare and provide for her family. She eloquently spoke to what a job meant for her. It was a very different room in Iliamna where people employed by Pebble filled the room and the usual voices of opposition were quite subdued.
What has the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation has done to promote jobs for the residents of Iliamna and Newhalen displaced by the recent downscaling at Pebble? So far, I am hearing crickets. Jobs for those in the fishing industry good. Jobs for the rest of us, not so much.
I do value the jobs created by this salmon runs. But those jobs are variable depending on the size of the return and many of them go to Oregon, Washington, and other countries. The one thing missing from the discussion is how to do mining and fishing on a sustainable basis. I am one that believes Alaskans who love the land, resources, and fishing, can figure out how to do both.
Van Vactor wants you to think that it will be sunshine and roses in getting Pebble permitted. That couldn’t be farther from the truth as there are many regulatory hurdles left in permitting, starting with an Environmental Impact Statement. 14 different agencies will be involved including the EPA.
People want you to believe that the EPA has somehow been sidelined. All that has happened is their preemptive (pre-permit) attack on due process has been stopped. The majority of Alaska’s statewide business and trade organizations spoke out against this precedent setting action because they knew if EPA could to do this to Pebble there would be no end to next projects getting the same treatment. We have rules and processes for a reason and when we get off the rails it hurts all of us.
One thing Alaskans do support is a fair process for evaluating projects like Pebble and that is why our elected officials hold a neutral position. Most, if not all, of Alaska’s business and trade organizations hold this position too.
The 2014 initiative was uncontested by the development community. It put an additional hurdle in place against Pebble. It implemented what is called a “legislative veto” – an action that the courts have consistently found unconstitutional. I expect this hurdle will go to trial at the appropriate time.
As to the visioning exercise in Bristol Bay that highlighted residents desire for excellent schools, safe and healthy families, and local jobs. This is what all people in Alaska want. I would encourage the residents of SW to look to the experience of the Northwest Arctic Borough where these are provided by something called the Red Dog Mine.
If fishing or renewable resources can provide this, SW Alaska would be rich beyond its wildest dreams. Sadly, they don’t, and SW Alaska remains one of the poorest parts of the state even with all the available fish.
Alaska is a great state with tremendous opportunity. Pebble is one of our assets. It should be reasonably evaluated. Remember, that in a time of decreasing oil revenues, the more people at work, earning a paycheck, the smaller the pressure on the State treasury.