Collier says Pebble Project will do environmental work needed for permit - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, October 27, 2020
HomeThe 907Collier says Pebble Project will do environmental work needed for permit

Collier says Pebble Project will do environmental work needed for permit

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Investors in Northern Dynasty stock got a nasty surprise this weekend as discouraging news about the Pebble Project was leaked to the media.

By the time markets opened on Monday, the NAK stock was taking a beating. By the end of day, it had lost more than a third of its value.

The bad news came in a letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stating the project in Western Alaska could not proceed as planned without significant mitigation.

The key takeaway is that, as currently proposed, the project could have substantial environmental impacts within the unique Bristol Bay watershed and lacks adequate compensatory mitigation.

But there is a path for the project. The knife may have drawn blood but didn’t quite hit an artery.

POLITICO had it right that there was a difficult letter coming from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday,.

But the news organization had it wrong that the USACE office in Alaska was holding a conference call on Monday “with groups connected to the proposed mine discuss the decision.” The news writers said an “administration official confirmed the call with POLITICO.”

POLITICO also had it wrong when it said that the president himself would then follow with a statement opposing the mine. POLITICO quoted “the people” several times, without saying who those sources were. Trump never made a statement on Monday.

Pebble CEO Tom Collier said the letter from the agency fell short of the breathless expectations set by the media, which piled on it this weekend after POLITICO broke the story.

“The letter we received today is a normal letter in the permitting process and we are well into an effort to present a mitigation plan to the USACE that complies with the requirements of their letter. A clear reading of the letter shows it is entirely unrelated to recent tweets about Pebble and one-sided news shows,” he said.

“The letter does not ask for a delay or pause in the permitting process. In fact, it clearly states that the USACE is continuing its work toward a Record of Decision for the project. This is the next step in what has been a comprehensive, exhaustive two-and-a-half-year review of the project. Nothing in the letter is a surprise to us or them,” Collier said.

The letter does not ask for “more” or “additional” mitigation, Collier said. It is in line with what the company expected.

“The USACE has identified the wetlands and stream impacts at the project mine site to include about 3000 acres of wetlands and about 100 miles of streams. The USACE has stated that the mitigation must be “in kind” and “in watershed.”

Pebble intends to include mitigation plan preserving enough land so that multiples of the number of impacted wetlands acres are preserved. Additional mitigation will also be provided for the transportation corridor.

The company has had crews working in the field to survey the wetlands for information to be used in the mitigation plan.

“We were informed about 6 weeks ago of how the USACE was leaning regarding mitigation. We began at that time focusing on a preliminary plan. We built two temporary camps in the watershed housing a total of about 25 people. A number of teams from those camps have been mapping the wetlands in the region for about four weeks now,” he said.

That’s not how the offices of Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan saw it. They both issued statements immediately.

“I understand, respect, and support this decision. I agree that a permit should not be issued. And I thank the administration for its commitment to the protection of this world-class watershed and salmon fishery,” Murkowski said.

Sullivan, too, said he supports the decision to not move ahead:

“Throughout this process, I have advocated for the Army Corps and other federal regulatory agencies to conduct a rigorous, fair, science-based review – free of politics – that does not trade one resource for another. I have worked hard to ensure that the voices of all Alaskans – both for and against the Pebble Mine – would be heard, considered, and respected at the highest levels of the federal government. This has happened.

“Finally, I have been clear that given the important aquatic system and world-class fishery resources at stake, Pebble, like all resource development projects in Alaska, has to pass a high bar – a bar that the Trump administration has determined Pebble has not met. I support this conclusion – based on the best available science and a rigorous, fair process – that a federal permit cannot be issued,” Sullivan said.

Congressman Don Young was more circumspect in his analysis:

“Today’s announcement by the Army Corps indicates a significant amount of compensatory mitigation is needed to offset the potential environmental impacts of the proposed mine at this present time. While not an outright veto of the project, this is a steep hill for the company to climb,” he said.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Politico get it wrong?
    Hush your mouth…never happen.

  • Well written. No apparent bias.

  • Looks like Baby Trump got his wish, No Pebble Mine.
    Let’s see how Trump handles the Donlin Gold Mine. Not to worry Jr does not fish in that area.
    I would be concerned about the Ambler road project.
    Jr pulled a bear tag in that area. After all Alaska is Baby Trumps play ground, and we all want Jr to have a good time.

  • It will be built and it will provide high paying jobs for the regions. My friends in Koliganek must be happy.

  • How exactly does one “mitigate” a Brumadinho-type dam collapse risk, in one of the most seismically-active regions on the planet?

    There’s only one way to manage low probability events that carry very high consequences – and that it to avoid taking the risk altogether.

    Salmon are forever. Gold is not.

    • So why drive a car? That is a much more risky endeavor than staying home. The dam you referenced, and subsequent failure, would NOT happen in Pebble design, due to the very nature of the failure in Brazil. Additionally, the design requirements are 100 times more stringent for a dam in the US than those that were in place in Brazil. You are among the thousands that comment on this project and reference other dam failures who have not done any research on the dams you are referencing. And the seismic event other people reference that would cause this dam to fail also would fill in Bristol Bay. Get out a topographical map and read a little. The people that continually argue against Alaska mineral development don’t consider the history of how the state developed.

  • The lesson, which we unfortunately need to keep learning, is that any regulatory shortcut is a trap.

  • More political BS, nothing more. The mine will have to do more report writing and design explanations, but it will get it’s permit. Time is just passing and the company can reduce what it pays to the region and the state to compenesate them for all this unnecessary expense.

  • Whidbey, Salmon aren’t forever. They live for a couple years and then die. However, in the process of catching and kill them we do created some jobs. On the other hand, gold has a more intrinsic value. It is one of the common commodities used in electronics, including that thing you’re reading this response on. My bet is there are more family supporting jobs created in the retrieval and manufacturing sector utilizing gold than salmon. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy slaying salmon “On the Rod.” But sorry, there is more good done in the world with gold than Salmon. You know that budget shortfall in Alaska, Royalties from gold get you more funding to provide the services wanted by Alaskans as opposed to taxing you.

  • Well, this explains the orchestrated series of anti-Pebble articles over the course of the last couple weeks. Interesting breakdown, though as the anti-Pebbles are pounding the drum that everything is about to stop while PP knew it was coming, expected it, and are going to deal with it. Sounds like the process continues to chug along, which is actual good news. Cheers –

  • You do realize the tailing “dams” of an open pit mine are comprised of SAND and NOT water or toxic sludge right? This is the problem with most opposing it, they listen to the NRDC campaigns that are designed to give you a one-sided and negative image. Please do not compare a sand tailing to a water filled dam. Thank you.

  • More happy, happy from Collier who is nothing but a salesman. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was. Take a look at that nice pic of their infrastructure: nothing but tents, then a look at Donlin. Airport, actual buildings etc.; a REAL enterprise. Collier is only good at liars poker. These new requirements are pretty much endo. No major will touch this with the proverbial pole after this and when you throw in the fact that Bluto is likely toast why would they? It has become nothing but a shoestring operation that only survives by issuing new stock. They hoodwinked FQVLF into ‘donating’ the money that has got them this far in the permitting process but save a savior, they are goners. I truly hope this is a wooden stake driven deep in this ugly vampires heart!

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