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Let's talk about Pebble

Posted: February 6, 2014 - 12:07am

As Sen. Mark Begich and Rep. Andy Josephson have recently opined about the Pebble Mine, I offer some of my own thoughts in response to the rhetoric of politicians more interested in inciting fear and “us versus them” thinking over facts.

I flew my own plane to the Pebble deposit two summers ago and I believe it is imperative that any elected officials who want to weigh in on this matter should at a minimum visit the property for themselves and visit with all groups expressing views on the matter. Let’s have an honest discussion about modern mining based on current technology, under current rules and regulations, and not horror stories based on past projects in other places, with decades-old technologies and practices, and political exercises like the recent EPA “assessment.” Yet another example of Federal overreach, the EPA piece is a political document; a report in search of a conclusion.

And let’s have a discussion that considers the role of pride in preserving the Native cultures in rural Alaska, and the role that economic opportunity and having a job play in strengthening that pride. Let’s have a discussion about the economic decline in parts of rural Alaska, how that leads to population decline as the most capable people move to urban Alaska, and the impact of that on rural culture. Let’s talk about a viable plan for improving the economy in rural Alaska; a plan based on creating wealth and moving people off of public assistance. A plan for reversing the school closures that come with out-migration.

The Bristol Bay fishery is certainly an asset for the people of Alaska, any development of Pebble must be compatible with the fishery. That said, much of the value of that fishery is going outside of Alaska, with well over half of the drift permits fished by non-Alaskans and with well over 70 percent of the processing jobs going to non-residents. That must be why the EPA chose to have the first public hearing on the draft “assessment” in downtown Seattle.

A preliminary economic study of development at Pebble estimated that it could create thousands of good paying, year-round jobs, generate over $1 billion of annual economic activity and contribute several billion dollars to the state’s general fund. At a time when oil throughput is in decline, we — as elected leaders — must thoroughly evaluate all potential economic opportunities.

Sen. Begich’s recent change of heart on Pebble is a play for support of national environmental organizations in his re-election campaign. The Natural Resources Defense Council has made Pebble a central fundraising issue featuring aging movie actor Robert Redford and is a leading group in the anti-Pebble fight. The NRDC has fought many Alaska resource development projects and to my knowledge has not advocated for responsible mineral development anywhere in the U.S.

Trout Unlimited, World Wildlife Fund and Earthworks have also led national campaigns to stop the project, including asking the EPA to preemptively stop Pebble – something the agency has not done since it was established. There is also the Moore Foundation, a San Francisco-based foundation, ironically established by the founders of Intel, that has sent millions to Alaska to fight Pebble. It is a shame for politicians to pander to these big outside groups.

The issues and passions generated by discussing Pebble are many and complex. This is why we have an established, science-based process to evaluate projects and determine if they meet our high standards for development. The alternative is a politically-driven process that would promote decisions based upon the whims of partisan politics, with a guaranteed outcome that investment money will go somewhere else, and with it so will the jobs and economic opportunity for Alaskans for generations to come.

Alaskans are smart enough to do projects like this right. Let’s work together and find a way make that happen.

• Rep. Eric Feige, R-Chickaloon, represents District 6 and is co-chair of the House Resources Committee.

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Mike Scott
Mike Scott 02/06/14 - 07:19 am
And who are you pandering for

And who are you pandering for Eric?

Art Petersen
Art Petersen 02/06/14 - 11:57 am
Let's start the discussion

with unassailable proof that the proposed huge mining operation is guaranteed NOT to endanger the largest salmon run in the world. But no. Instead the focus is on how interests outside Alaska are concerned ... as if they shouldn't be. Aren't we all concerned? It's not unreasonable for all of Alaska, all of western Canada, and most of the northwest coast of the U.S. to be concerned about their fisheries. The run is that big, and Pebble is big enough to ruin it. The writer talks about the billions that would accrue to the State of Alaska. Should this huge operation occur and billions come to the state, will the day come when legislators like the writer vote to give the people's billions from this resource back to the industry in the hope of more exploration and development elsewhere, such as occurred with the SB 21 giveaway of Alaska's oil revenue back to the oil industry? ... Let's start with the unassailable proof of safety, and not like the safe technology that was going to be used to drill for oil under arctic waters.

Tom Taylor
Tom Taylor 02/06/14 - 10:17 am
Eric Feige was the one who

Eric Feige was the one who introduced HB92 the "Lucy Lawless bill” that would make it a felony to interfere with permitted oil and gas, timber or other development projects.
Eric said the bill is his effort to get ahead of any problems in Alaska, where Shell has begun exploratory drilling in the Arctic. Turns out the activists were right about Shell. They are probably right about Pebble to.

Judy Hodel
Judy Hodel 02/06/14 - 12:57 pm
Ted Stevens Said No

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), one of the angriest and shrillest anti-environmentalists in Congress who never saw a mine he didn't like. said: "If this was some essential commodity that we absolutely had to have to run our economy, it would be a different matter; and even then I would want to have a lot better attention being paid to the environmental process. But this one, I just don't like it. . . .

We really don't know what's happening with the reproductive capability of those streams out there. . .

"I'm not going to change, and I hope people will listen to us. That resource is an enormous resource not just for the Native people but for the Bristol Bay run, and it ought not be tampered with by a gold mine. . . .

If that makes me a turncoat from being an extreme developer, so be it. . . . They [Northern Dynasty] are hiring people from all over the place to criticize me, to fly back to Washington to talk to everybody about my opposition to this mine. . . .

My old friends in the mining industry. . . are ready to put a red-hot poker to my throat."

Angel Crusher
Angel Crusher 02/07/14 - 01:45 am
Okay, let's start that

Okay, let's start that conversation by looking at an existing mine that has gone from groundbreaking to closure without having significant impact on the environment...whenever you're ready...

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