Smackdown: Dunleavy slams Stutes, Edgmon in blistering letter on Pebble project - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, September 24, 2021
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Smackdown: Dunleavy slams Stutes, Edgmon in blistering letter on Pebble project

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In a letter to State Representatives Louise Stutes and Bryce Edgmon, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has reiterated he stands in favor of responsible mining, in favor of process, and in favor of helping to lift Alaskans out of poverty.

He specifically mentioned the importance of improving the lives of those in the Bristol Bay region and asked Stutes and Edgmon to stop being obstructionists against every proposal, and start bringing forward actual solutions to improve the economy.

Dunleavy was responding to criticism from Stutes and Edgmon, who told him in a letter last week that he needs to back off of his support for Pebble Mine. The two want Dunleavy to block any state permits for the proposed mine.

Dunleavy was having none of it. His response went on for three pages.

“As governor of Alaska, one of my duties is to create economic opportunity for the benefit of all Alaskans, utilizing every available resource within our borders. No serious person would disagree that accessing the mineral deposits within the Bristol Bay Mining District, if done in a way that protects the watershed, would transform the lives of Alaskans living in the region. My role is to ensure that each project is subject to a fair and rigorous review process, and that every opportunity to create thousands of jobs is fully explored. Preemptive vetoes, particularly in a region suffering from generational poverty and a chronic lack of economic options, have no place in Alaska,” Dunleavy wrote.

Dunleavy also pointed out that demand for strategic minerals is growing and Alaska can supply it to the nation, and help the country avoid its dependency on hostile foreign powers, such as China.

“I cannot accept your argument that I should not, in my role as governor, seek to move viable projects forward for the benefit of economically-depressed regions and our national security, particularly when my only act of ‘promotion,’ both privately and publicly, has been to call for a fair federal review and permitting process. You are no doubt aware of this fact given that you cite a letter, drafted based on my conversations with Pebble project stakeholders, which stated exactly that.”

“You are also aware that, at every juncture of this process, I have stated the best available science will determine the future of the Pebble project. This is true of every resource development project in the state of Alaska. No resource will be sacrificed for the benefit of another. Like Kensington and Greens Creek mines in Southeast Alaska, any proposal within the Bristol Bay Mining District must demonstrate that it can operate in harmony with our fisheries.

“Regardless of the fate of the Pebble project, let me be absolutely clear: I will not stop fighting for the people of the Bristol Bay region who continue to suffer from an acute lack of economic opportunity,” Dunleavy wrote.

He pointed out that the salmon fishery is something he is unwilling to jeopardize, but it takes wealth out of Alaska. Most of the workers in Bristol Bay are from elsewhere, and only 76 local workers filled the 5,471 processing jobs in 2017. For those from the region who fish, they are earning far less than Outside crews. Only 25 percent of commercial permit-holders are Alaskans.

“In the off season, year-around residents are left to cope with unemployment rates that often exceed 12 percent and poverty levels that are more than double the statewide average,” Dunleavy wrote.

This results in real tragedy in families of Southwest Alaska, a vast majority of whom are Native. Suicide and lower life expectancy, low high school graduation rates, and more — Dunleavy said the poverty is unacceptable to him.

“It is disheartening that a representative of this economically depressed region, with so many of their residents deprived of meaningful opportunities to improve their life, would foment opposition to plans to address these inequalities,” Dunleavy wrote, referring to Edgmon.

“The American dream cannot be realized while constrained by dependency on government. I have yet to meet any Alaskan who wishes to live in this manner. A lack of regional development only prolongs this dependency and denies Alaskans their natural right to self-determination,” the governor wrote.

He then asked the two representatives, who are strong advocates for the Alaska commercial fishing industry, to share their plans for the rest of the Bristol Bay Area economy — an economy in which their own constituents might be helped.

“As you know, our legislative session is just months away, and Alaskans are in desperate need of our help. I stand ready and willing to join you in support of resource development projects that provide the year-around jobs and the opportunities needed to ensure the region’s long-term success.
The economic adversity facing Bristol Bay poses a steep challenge, but the odds are far from insurmountable if we take action today,” Dunleavy wrote.

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Written by

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

  • Go, Pebble! Go, mining industry! Let’s get rurals off of welfare!

  • Keep Standing Tall Mike! We are with you.

  • ???

    All Americans are entitled to prosperity. Have an acquaintance who is a member of the tribe closest to Pebble. Because of their support for the project, they are being denied by an insurance company for coverage. These liberals think they know better what these folks need than those people know themselves. Total colonialism.

    • Don’t forget to vote!

  • Very well said, Dunleavy. ??

  • Nice job, Governor! It is doubtful that they will hear you since they can’t hear their constituents. . I imagine they are listening to fishing lobbyists and outside interests.

  • Great article, environmentalists have set this country back decades in the global scheme of things. Time to really look into who is funding these organizations and also the courts and politicians who are in bed with them.

  • Keep it up Mike. Great job!!!
    For Alaska and for the USA!!!!

  • Keep doing what you do.
    Hopefully rational thinking will win in the end.

  • The problem with the anti-Pebble nuts is they want to make an exception to the law and permitting process without changing the law. Once you circumvent the law and make an exception for one project, the precedence is set for the next proposal. What was once a standard permitting procedure based on science, accepted legal process and merit now becomes subjective based on how people “feel”, making the law irrelevant.

    • Well said!

  • I stand on this with Governor Mike Dunleavy. There are ALWAYS CONCERNS regarding the environment, at the same time, it is the very rare human indeed who resides in Alaska (or visits Alaska) who does not care deeply about the environment. It’s always this same approach by the obstructionists: namely that if you are not AGAINST any kind of resource development or extraction you MUST be an environment HATER. Total BS !! If their intent was nothing BUT obstructionism, then why is there never ANY solution proffered for an environmental concern expressed. Everyone wants to drive cars, fly in airplanes, ride the ferry, have their retail and consumer goods delivered to their communities, but there are some who believe that this should all happen magically by some wave of a wand. Or perhaps they feel that all of their great living and easy lives should be at the expense of someone else’s environment. We have the most stringent environmental regulations in the nation. And we are very proud as Alaskan’s about the degree to which we protect our environment. And yes we DO WANT TO HEAR about environmental concerns, so they can be ADDRESSED and remedies found. Obstructionists are not pointing out endless concerns about the environment because they want solutions, but rather because they want to STOP and kind of resource development. If they were sincerely interested in the environment AND MAINTAINING the lifestyle that demands those resources to be extracted, then they would be partnering with industry (or working independently) to solve the environmental challenges. But instead, they only look for the next problem which they can throw up as a roadblock — not a list of things or problems in advanced so that everyone can work on them, but each obstruction released in exacting measure to cause the greatest delays, cause the greatest mitigation costs, and the most hampering possible. THESE are the MODERN IMPERIALISTS !! Those who continue to use resources and the technologies developed from them, CREATING DEMAND for those resources, while at the same time insisting that the extraction of those resources come from developing countries, from someone else’s back yard, where humans are exploited for their labor and the environment is treated with disregard — these are the IMPERIALISTS, the ELITISTs of the modern age.

  • The difficulty here is that Stutes and Edgmon are responding to their supporters – most of whom have interests outside of Alaska. What Stutes and Edgmon care about is reelection. They could give a hoot less about the economy of southwest Alaska. The Bristol Bay fishery is about lifestyle for a privileged few. Fact is that if not another fish were caught in Bristol Bay neither the nation or world would care. Soon worldwide fish farming will make Alaska salmon irrelevant. Here is the proof; Norway sells more than 1 million metric tons of salmon annually valued at more than $7 billion. By meager contrast Alaska produces about 450 metric tons of salmon annually worth less than $700 million, and it will not get better. Virtually all those Norwegian salmon are farmed. Meanwhile Stutes and Edgmon are busy opposing Pebble as well as fish farming in Alaska. Reminds one of the buggy whip industry.

  • Well-deserved big Mike smackdown – owie owie owie!

    On the other hand, the Pebble team is obviously not a fit for developing an environmentally sensitive world-class project. I’d like to be wrong but the longer these yahoos are in charge the harder will be the fall. Not vetting prospective “investors” is a rookie mistake.

  • Remember to vote guys! Make a list if you must!

  • Courage and clarity; the makings of a great Governor.

  • Great to have a Governor that is a proponent for all Alaskans.
    In the absence of a woodshed, well done Governor.

  • Gov Dunleavy is nothing short of heroic.

    Facts & legal process; for the benefit of all the stakeholders, including both industries use of the resources.

  • It’s about time he grew a pair and stood up to the obstructionist legislators.
    Too bad he didn’t when they kept sending him budgets to sign, but without a full PFD, and he’s kept signing off on the budgets and giving away his only leverage to push for a full PFD.

  • Pretty good stuff other than it negates the real problems of western Alaska. What makes people think the unemployed, suicidal, alcohol, drug problems will be cured with a mine. He doesn’t mention how many out of staters work on the slope either. There’s just as much opportunity for remote Alaskans to get a pilots license, guide license, coast guard license, commercial fishing permit and get to work.

    • You can cure a lot of local maladies with actual jobs, employment, and a regular paychecks they earn. They’ve tried everything else in that part of the state. Perhaps it is time to try actual employment in the private sector. Cheers –

  • Don’t you just love it when those who are supposed to represent us come out in favor of making America a vassal of The Chinese Communist Party? That’s what they’re doing when they shut down development of critical resources and leave America subject to the whims of their Comrade Xi Jinping. Gee, where are they going to get their smartphones when their comrade shuts off supplies and America has to back to using landlines?

    • Did Edgmon change his status back to Democrat? He will not be the Speaker next session, so being an Independent will no longer serve his self interest.

  • Excellent rational response to an irrational request. When we support responsible development in Alaska we support all of the USA. China has a stranglehold on minerals and they are not our friend. The legislators opposing the development of Pebble appear to be accepting monetary rewards from China sources. It is tantamount to treason!

  • I know I will be in the minority but I do not think Governor Dunleavy’s letter is fully honest or accurate. It has become clear that the downsized proposed project and all pertinent studies are not accurate scientific studies for the actual intended full size project. I have a problem with people saying “trust the process” when “the process” seems dishonest at the least and possibly corrupt.
    Secondly, I went to the hearings and yes, there are some natives closest to the mine who support it. However, a vast majority of those in the region oppose it. The governors claims about poverty can be backed up if only looking at USD, but wealth is also measured by culture, way of life, and desired resources (salmon and clean water, wildlife). I think he would be hard pressed to find Alaska natives who would trade culture loss for money.
    Let’s be honest about this project and put it through the process of what they actually intend.


    The issue is slipping out of Alaska’s hands because Alaska hasn’t completed its state selection of federal lands. The fed can come in and reverse any particular approval for lands selected so far, putting the burden of showing cause on the state.

    That’s what happens when you elect S-48 Carpet Bagger rejects.

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