Rick Whitbeck: Greens should follow the science on Pebble

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By RICK WHITBECK | POWER THE FUTURE

Certain dates are forever etched in Alaska history: March 30, 1867, when we were purchased from Russia. Jan. 3, 1959, when we became our nation’s 49th state. March 13, 1968, when oil was discovered on the North Slope at Prudhoe Bay. 

One day, July 26, 2023 may be remembered this way as well: when the State of Alaska sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for issuing a pre-emptive veto of the permitting process for the Pebble Project. Arguing that EPA ‘effectively confiscated State property and created a de facto national park by invoking the veto, the motion requested to have the case heard directly by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In announcing the lawsuit, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, stated “bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. are exercising unbridled and unlawful power the choke off any further discussion on this important decision.”

Here’s why the case matters: Pebble is the world’s second-largest untapped copper deposit, with world-class gold, molybdenum, rhenium, and silver opportunities as well. It has long been vilified by environmentalists and even some public officials, who have waged a multi-faceted war by declaring that the mine would devastate the salmon harvests in Bristol Bay, which is located over 200 river miles away. Polling done in the early 2010s found that a slim majority of statewide residents opposed the original mine plan.

With that in mind, Northern Dynasty Minerals (NDM), the company spearheading Pebble’s development, adapted its mine plan to remove the most contentious parts.  The revised development process no longer used cyanide in the processing of the minerals, nor was a massive earthen dam going to be used to permanently store tailings, which opponents claimed could fail and send millions of gallons of poison and toxics into the watershed. NDM shrunk the proposed footprint to a fraction of the original and worked through the NEPA process beginning in 2017, with a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued in July 2020 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, finding – without ambiguity – the mine would have no significant impact to the Bristol Bay fishery.

With that clean FEIS and no threat to the fishery in place, you’d think climate activists obsessed with decarbonizing the planet and solving the so-called ‘climate crisis’ would celebrate Pebble for its domestic supplies of copper.  After all, technologies critical to the green transition, such as EVs and wind turbines, require much more copper than conventional fossil fuel-based counterparts.

You’d be completely wrong. The eco-Left doubled down on their fight against Pebble, even though studies show the worldwide demand for copper will more than double between now and 2050.  

To be fair, the misguided voices on Pebble were not limited to the left. After the FEIS was published, even right-leaning journalist Tucker Carlson, and politicians including Alaska’s U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, along with Donald Trump, Jr. joined the zealots demanding the Pebble resource base be locked up via administrative and political action, rather than letting the process continue to move forward. Free market be damned; Alaska needed to be saved from itself.

If past is prologue, the State should have a strong case before SCOTUS. In each of three recent decisions (Sturgeon vs Frost (2016/2019), West Virginia vs Environmental Protection Agency (2022) and Sackett vs Environmental Protection Agency (2023), the Court made it clear that executive-branch overreach was occurring, and that it needed to be stopped. The decisions struck back at the weaponization of agency agendas by bureaucrats who create regulation, rather than follow laws passed by Congress.

If a domestic supply of copper – one that will create 2.000 construction jobs and 600 full-time jobs – in a geographic area with a staggering 50% unemployment – and hundreds of millions of dollars of local, state and federal revenues can be built safely according to a proven science-based process, why fight it?  

Maybe because the ability to create a domestic supply chain for ‘green’ technology-necessary copper isn’t the goal of the extremists. By fighting Pebble – and every other development project in the state – the real battle plan has been shown to be a complete lock-down of Alaska’s lands, waters and resources, in hopes of driving away industry and turning the state into one gigantic park.

Pebble’s science is clear, that it can be built without impacting fish. Kudos to Governor Dunleavy and his administration for taking the fight to the federal government and standing tall for all Alaskans. Here’s hoping the Supreme Court hears the case quickly, finds for the State – and against federal overreach – once again, and allows science to trump a narrative of fear.

Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Email him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @PTFAlaska

37 COMMENTS

  1. Northern Dynasty is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. It is owned by equity holders many of whom live in the United States and Alaska in particular.

    My feeble attempt to head off the “foreign owned” shrieks from the useful idiots.

    • “My feeble attempt to…”

      You spelled pathetic incorrectly. Foreign mineral extractors leaving behind a toxic slurry that needs to be maintained for longer than you or anyone else you know will be alive is a problem. Your willingness to saddle your great great grandchildren w/ the industrial waste abandoned by a foreign entity in the world’s richest fishery is pathetic as well.

  2. China is funding these loony “environmental” groups using dark money. China wants to maintain mining monopolies and China just can’t have this world class mining resource to compete against. If the environmental groups were sincere, they’d be following the science and paying attention to horror China is creating with its mining. China produces absolutely appalling environmental havoc. The air, land, and water are all poisoned. So if we don’t mine here, then massive pollution results in China, and other third world countries where China is the principle investor.

    Of course Biden has taken millions in bribes from the Chinese. So of course Biden will side with China.

      • Thanks for the reminder. He can’t be trusted. I’ll vote for him if he’s the nominee, but can’t support him in a primary because of Pebble and he is his own worst enemy. Just take a look at the people he has sex with. National embarrassment.

      • Joe, do you enjoy the taste while licking your masters’ boots?
        Does it make you feel good to shill for a corrupt establishment?
        Do you take pride in defending the ruling class?

      • Joe, if you understand economics, you know that decreasing the supply of a given commodity makes it scarcer, and the price rises. You need to research the environmental destruction caused by Chinese mining operations.

        Here, I’ll make it easy for you. This is the mining that Joe Geldhof supports:

        ‘https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=environmental+destruction+china+mining

    • Almost nailed it M – the hair sniffer and his demo/com predecessors have pledged Alaska in its entirety as collateral for debt. The balance of trade issues with China are secondary.

  3. Mr Whitbeck may not have learned that Northern Dynasty lost a 6.4 million dollar fraud case and were caught lying about the size and value of the mineral deposits defrauding investors 2 months ago.
    They have also lost all partners, Anglo American, Mitsubishi, First Quantum Minerals and Rio Tinto.
    Mr. Whitbeck has never mined or likely has never been to the area which I have and I have commercial fished.
    The defunct pebble prospects claims are worth 0 and they are prohibited to open a mine by U.S. Army Cor. of Engineers and EPA and are to stay the hell off Red Salmon spawning grounds.

  4. Biden should be honest and he isn’t. There are many things the left doesn’t do they should.

    This has nothing to do with the environment and everything about controlling every possible aspect of our lives.

  5. I hold that all this folly has nothing to do with turning Alaska into a park. Witness the “EnviroMental” attacks on almost all development across our nation. No, the purpose is to weaken the U.S. economy, enthrall it’s millions, and dim its future. The same end goal as their Commie Pinko sugar daddies.

  6. The Green Lobby creates its own problems. Because they have gotten laws passed that have made the US unfriendly to mining, and because Canada (for all its Leftism still knows which side of its bread is buttered) is reliant upon mining much more than the US, only a Canadian company can afford to risk the venture capital. I’ll bet if it was CHINA trying to develop Pebble, the Left would be strangely silent.

  7. Sullivan ran for cover when the idiot from Pebble mine dropped Sullivans name to an undercover Liberal reporter.
    Sullivan had to go against Pebble to insure that there was no hint of corruption.
    Contrast that to Biden discussing the weather with every foreign crook he could find.
    That said thank you State if Alaska for standing up to the EPA. The notion that a Federal Agency can declare SOA land off limits forever is preposterous. It only shows how blatantly confident the leftest EPA has become. Recall the definition of a government worker,
    “ one that makes decisions that have no Monterey impact on themselves “.
    So the EPA’s attitude is sue me. When the EPA loses in Court, will the individuals making this call at the EPA be fired? Yep you betcha.

    • USBLM is right there with the EPA. As for getting a fed ‘crat fired – dream on friend. When you sue and win, the feds promote the perp! – “He learned a valuable lesson”… I watched the National Park Service do this very thing 20 years ago – the incompetent woke perp has a very high ranking position at NPS in D.C. now.

  8. The basic fact is that Alaska has been mined all over the state since long before statehood and the people that believe Alaska should be one, big park are at the wheel of the ship going over the falls. There is no other economic driver for Alaska. Tourism isn’t going to support the state, the fishing industry is being regulated out of business, mineral development would create a huge boom in Alaska and aid in extending the transportation infrastructure in Alaska.

  9. But wait, wasn’t it Donald J. Trump and his merry band of pranksters who denied the Corps of Engineers permit for the Pebble Project? Just say’n, there’s more than enough reason for folks across the entire political spectrum from looney to lousy for giving the Pebble Project a negative rating.

    • You demonstrate an appalling lack of logical thinking here, Joe.

      Just because some Trump appointees, or even Trump himself, took a particular stand on something does not automatically mean that taking that stand was right and proper.

      How about trying to directly address the author’s points and arguments, rather than sidetracking the conversation with your chronic Trump Derangement Syndrome? Honestly, one would think that a supposed lawyer would be able to demonstrate some minimum of critical thinking ability and intellectual integrity. Or not.

      • Jeff; It’s over for Northern Dynasty, they just lost a fraud claim to investors, 6.4 million, for lying about the value of the mining claims.
        Plus native land owner corporations are not allowing them to even reach pebble creek, no airport, no gas line from Cook Inlet, no mine, no permits 😉

        • If you think 6.4 million dollars is going to shutdown a deposit worth hundreds of billions of dollars you are fooling yourself. But hey, on the plus side at least you aren’t repeating your demonstrably false claim that they were going to pit mine the entire 100+ square mile deposit using a dredge! So you’re finally learning a thing or two about mining.

          • Read the courts summary findings, and yes dredging out surface minerals, tunneling on the east side, 769 square miles of open pit mining feeding into a ore slurry pipeline to tide water, earthen dam, Cook Inlet gas line (competing with Anchorages gas supply which is running out) are all in the pebble plan if you’d just google pebble plan you would know. instead of just shooting from the hip.
            Educate yourself man 😉

          • We’ve been over this before so you should by now realize that the largest open pit mine in the world is 10 square miles, and was started in the late 1800’s. Pebble will never, ever, ever be a 769 square mile open pit mine…that’s more than half the size of Rhode Island and more than 260 square miles larger than Los Angeles! It’s completely and demonstrably absurd to claim Pebble will be a 769 square mile open pit mine, just crazy talk. Do like you say and go read the plan, educate yourself and stop making yourself look so foolish ‘https://pebblepartnership.com/size’ the entire impact of the mine facilities would be about 5 square miles and the open pit would be a fraction of that. Or you could go to the Pebble Environmental Impact Statement if you want to see what the Army Corp of Engineers said about the mine, since you’ve obviously never read anything of the actual plan.

            Open pit mines are not dredged.

          • Here’s a link to the final Environmental Impact Statement

            ‘https://www.scribd.com/document/470216173/USACE-Pebble-Project-Final-EIS-Executive-Summary#from_embed’

    • DJT’s demo’rat holdover bureau’rats at ACE did that – find me a quote that Trump actually said he was opposed to Pebble – he was opposed to sloppy mining in general and approved the revamped Pebble plan and EIS. Orange Man does mean Tweets but he is not stupid. Pebble, like the other lefty enviro-icons such as polar bears and spotted owls, has been seriously exaggerated and distorted to fit an agenda. We need this mine and the world needs the product. We can and should do this right, and I’m confident we will. Meanwhile, take something for your TDS. “Look! Over here! Orange Man BAD!” does not make for an intelligent discussion.

  10. The success achieved by the environmental opponents creates an atmosphere of negativity that affects any proposal in Alaska. It’s easy to stop projects. Doesn’t matter if it us extending a railroad, building a new road, and aircraft manufscturing site, or adding a pipeline. Opponents can be found, funds can be raised, and public outrage fanned by a willing media.
    Given that no pot growing facility has, to my knowlede, aquired an EPA Air Quality permit, in spite of the discharge obvious to anyone driving by, even the let’s favored “new industry” could likely be impacted or shut down were it to outrage an activist group.
    Alaska is the highest risk and highest cost place to develop on planet earth. Alas.

  11. Now that the salmon market is crashing around us, I wonder if those people living in the Bristol Bay area will view the Pebble Project in a different light. Problem is government lets the environmental groups pick the legal battlefields, choose the legal weapons, and ends up fighting defensively. One cannot win a battle by only fighting on the defense. For far too long stakeholders in rural Alaska have been spoon-fed lies about projects such as this, enough so that most of them have bought into the fictions that were created.

    Then there’s some of the tactics that environmental groups have executed such as paying local residents with the loudest mouths to speak out against oil and gas, mining, and any other development activity proposed in Alaska. It’s absolutely self destructing in the end for the rural Alaskan communities, but by the time that eventuality rolls around the environmental groups will do what they always do. Avoid accountability, absolve themselves, and feign ignorance.

  12. A study of the principle groups creating the opposition to mining will lead one to realize that their motives are not pure. A lot of high scale effort has been expended to steer public opinion taking advantage of the lack of education of most people on the actual proposal. Or mining processes in general.

  13. We dont need all that copper anyway. My Vette runs very fast on gasoline and I dont have to remember to plugs that whatchamacallit into the thing on the wall.
    Oh Dang, my ice cream just melted. gotta go change my pants.

  14. The extremist on the left have spent so long demonizing this prospective mine that they don’t even know what the proposed mine actually would be. The sad part is that they’ve convinced good people that the boogeyman is just around the corner and those good people would have to overcome years of brainwashing to inform themselves that in fact this mine ain’t the mine the left is still pretending will destroy the entirety of Bristol Bay. This mine does not imperil all the rivers in Bristol Bay, it merely sits on one small tributary of one of the major rivers.

  15. If this is such a good idea, why isn’t Alaska in on managing it for Alaskans, like North Slope Oilers and PFD? Northern Dynasty is under ownership by a company in a different sovereign nation.

    • The Mt Polley mine was touted as the safest mine in the world in British Columbia, then a major earthen dam breach and a major disaster spilling over 27 million cubic meters of ore slurry mine waste.
      Problem with the commenters on this site is they fail to do any research at all, don’t care that Northern Dynasty is a fraudulent foreign owned mining company that’s being defended by the state trying to complete a Hail Mary with the supreme court without going through the lower courts first.
      Glad you have a enough sense to see reason 😉

  16. The real problem is not just with Pebble, but with all of the potential mines and developments in Alaska state lands. If the federal government can shut Pebble by fiat, it sets a precedent for future attempts to mine Alaska minerals that will enable the Feds to take away the lands by fiat that were originally promised to the state to help it earn its own way in the agreement for Alaska Statehood. That agreement has never been completely settled by the Feds. Instead the Feds have used every excuse possible to keep from settling the lands agreements. Sadly, Alaska has had to fight for every bit of sovereignty for its lands that have been surrendered to it by the Feds. If the Biden Administration has its way, everything will be federalized.

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