Pebbled: The narrative of fear



(Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series by Mark Hamilton about the history of the Pebble Project in Alaska.)

On May 11, 2017, EPA agreed to a settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership to resolve litigation from 2014 relating to EPA’s pre-emptive veto of a permit application.

The favorable settlement in the suit against EPA for having issued a pre-emptive veto was not a great victory, except that it added to Alaska’s track record of successfully challenging a huge federal overreach.  

Pebble was allowed to enter the NEPA process, joining tens of thousands of projects since 1970 that did not have to face the veto prior to applying.  

The other piece of the settlement is instructive: The EPA was instructed “in 90 days” to begin the process of removing the veto (preliminary determination in legal terms).  

That was in May of 2017.  EPA did nothing but promise as the time moved on, and finally, as America was about to change the presidency, EPA rejected the requirement and tossed it over to the Trump Administration. 

The delay and postponement was despicable but ultimately effective, since, 27 months after the settlement requirement (most under President Trump), EPA withdrew the veto.

This was quickly jumped on as “Trump removed the veto.” That is not so; the settlement was under the Obama Administration; Trump ultimately carried out the provisions of the settlement that Obama’s EPA refused to complete.

Understand how discussions about environmental impact are stacked against the developer.

When a project is envisioned after preliminary geological findings indicate there’s a worthwhile deposit, the developer will begin to secure leases for the area. At least at this time, if not earlier, it will be public knowledge that there is the possibility of a mine.  

The narrative of fear can begin immediately. Sheer size can be utilized to instill apprehension. Describing the removal of billions of tons of rock, then storing the huge percentage of the crushed rock after minerals have been removed (tailings) yields numbers that are truly beyond the imagination of the average citizen. Assigning danger to those numbers is pure speculation, but they set the stage for the introduction of environmental degradation. Today virtually everyone, to include developers, is attuned to the need to be environmentally aware.  

The preservationists begin their campaign buoyed by the sheer size of mining projects. This plays well into what otherwise might be seen as hysterical claims:  “Unimaginable spoilage,” “enormous degradation” are more believable when you are already size shocked.  

Adding to your worry and consternation about spoilage and degradation, you will hear the area chosen for the mine site is one of the deity’s grandest creations. Look for the buzz word “pristine.”

Every road, every airport, every port, every railroad was built on a once-pristine area, and the same holds true for every house and every school.  

Further you will be warned that this pristine area will be defiled in “perpetuity.”  You see “forever” just doesn’t have the ring of careful consideration that “perpetuity” suggests.  

Don’t be pebbled.

The “Pebbled” series at Must Read Alaska is authored by Mark Hamilton. After 31 years of service to this nation, Hamilton retired as a Major General with the U. S. Army in July of 1998. He served for 12 years as President of University of Alaska, and is now President Emeritus. He worked for the Pebble Partnership for three years before retiring. The series continues next week. 

Pebbled 1: Virtue signaling won out over science in project of the century

Pebbled 2: Environmental industry has fear-mongering down to an art

Pebbled 3: The secret history of ANWR and the hand that shaped it

Pebbled 4: When government dictates an advance prohibition

Pebbled 5: EPA ‘just didn’t have time’ to actually go to Bristol Bay


  1. It is just beyond reasonable to expect mankind to live in a modern society on the planet without mineral mining. The idiots that insist that Pebble not be mined are the same bunch wailing and wringing their hands when commercial air access to the communities there was severely reduced.

  2. “Further you will be warned that this pristine area will be defiled in “perpetuity.” You see “forever” just doesn’t have the ring of careful consideration that “perpetuity” suggests. ”

    Hamilton calls it correctly. The EnviroNazis carefully choose every word, every paragraph, to create persuasive dialog. Propaganda actually. One has to parse their statements thoroughly, to discover what they’re actually saying.

    In short, they use your ignorance against you. That’s why you’re still wage slaves, and will always be. You just don’t want to be bothered with any finite details.

  3. The message is an old one, Harborguy.
    Anyone who is in favor of advancing Alaska’s resource production, especially in the mining industry, could have written this article. It’s the messenger, who’s contradictory actions while UA President, makes the assertions weak and disregardable. No new revelations here.

  4. Everyone knows Pebble would kill all the fish in the ocean, drop the birds from the sky, and cause the earth to spin into the sun, drawing the ire of the Martians and the Kardashians.

  5. I remember back when they said the pipeline was going to kill off the porcupine caribou heard because they would be too afraid to walk underneath it and it would destroy their migratory routes that they had been taking since the beginning of time. Obviously that didn’t happen, the stupid Caribou just went right on migrating like they’ve always been doing. The same way would have happened down in pebble. The people would have made a high wage, the company would have made some money and the state would have made some money. The fish would have kept on swimming and life would have went on. Now, people don’t have the high wages and either have to travel out side the region for work, or have Bryce Edgmon continue to steal half or more of their PFD, and keep them in poverty and possibly homeless in Anchorage. This is their agenda.

  6. So does that mean Pebble Mine development can proceed? I’ve been reading up on this and the latest info I’ve found was about a group of investors calling for a ban back in April.

  7. CALIFORNIA REFUGEE: The Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) had indicated preliminary approval, and expectation was that they would follow through and approve developing Pebble. The stock gained over 5 times it’s value almost overnight, on this expectation.
    Then Murkowski threatened to trash the Interior Department and ACoE budgets if Pebble was approved.
    Meanwhile, Sullivan had been in favor all along of developing Pebble. Then some EnviroNazis recorded Pebble’s management bragging that they had Sullivan in their back pocket. Sullivan responded with damage control, disavowing his former support of Pebble, while also putting pressure in the ACoE.
    The ACoE decided that discretion was the bettor part of valor, and made a 180 turn, denying approval for Pebble.
    So Pebble now sits in limbo, with an illegal, immoral denial of approval. There are many investors though who feel that the ACoE decision will be overturned on appeal, as the denial was such an aberration of established law. They range in sentiment from “hold” or “buy” which is keeping Pebbles stock – NDM on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) around .53 or so cents.
    If everyone thought Pebble was dead and buried, the stock wouldn’t be worth a tenth of a cent right now.
    All of the stock exchanges encourage the average person to become interested in investing, so they make their websites reader friendly. It takes only a few hours exploring to start to grasp how it works.

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