Two-thirds of Legislature won't sign anti-fair-process letter regarding Pebble - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, November 20, 2019
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Two-thirds of Legislature won’t sign anti-fair-process letter regarding Pebble

A letter sent by 19 Democratic legislators and one Republican, criticizing Gov. Michael Dunleavy for supporting due process in the Pebble Project, lacked the signatures of the vast majority of Republicans, with the exception of Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak.

The letter was in response to a letter written by Dunleavy to the chief executive officer of Wheaton Precious Metals Corporation, which stated the state would defend the mine against unfair interference and “frivolous and scurrilous attacks.” Dunleavy has said often that he supports due process,

According to the Democrats’ letter, which was also sent to the CEO of Wheaton, the mining project is on the “edge of Bristol Bay.” In fact, the Pebble Project is 230 miles by river from Bristol Bay, or about the same distance by air as Anchorage is from Homer.

“Opposition to this project is both local and statewide, and is not frivolous, slanderous or interference. As individual Alaskans, our opposition to this project arises from the potentially severe social, economic, and cultural risks that the Pebble Mine represents,” according to the lawmakers who signed the letter that was released on Monday.

“Alaskans will vigorously defend their existing cultural and economic interests, and assuming that permitting will be pro forma carries substantial risk. As Alaskans, we refuse to jeopardize an existing, sustainable resource for the sake of an economically dubious project,” they wrote.

A few days earlier, Rep. Chuck Kopp, a Republican, penned an op-ed that ran in Alaska newspapers in which he supported mining as a way to end the despair that has led to lawlessness throughout rural Alaska and he called for an end to divisive and “caustic rhetoric, inaccurate information, and a false dichotomy that says it’s either mining jobs and infrastructure or protection of the environment.”

Suffice it to say, Kopp did not sign the letter to the Wheaton company CEO but stayed on the side of the fair permitting process of a State of Alaska asset.

Mining projects across Alaska.

Alaska’s mining industry breathes new life into our communities

By REP. CHUCK KOPP

A lot of news lately has focused on the very real concerns we have about our future here in Alaska. Lack of public safety, job opportunities, education funding and a weak economy all present challenges that are bringing people together in unprecedented ways to realize a more secure future for our state.

For the first time since statehood, we are seeing year-over-year declines in our population as working-age adults and their families leave Alaska in search of work, taking their expertise with them. The Anchorage Economic Development Corp. reports a loss of 900 jobs just in Anchorage in 2018, and projects another 700 in 2019, as well as 1,000 in 2020. The statewide job loss numbers are much bleaker.

This situation underscores the importance of taking seriously every opportunity to turn this around. A recent announcement of a major oil producer leaving Alaska is a poignant reminder of how critical it is for us to have a stable investment climate, and that the oil and gas sector alone can no longer carry the freight for us. More diversity to our revenue stream is needed, and we do not have the luxury we once had to dismiss viable prospects right in front of us.

The economic strain has a direct nexus to our public safety crisis in rural Alaska. The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica special report ‘Lawless’ is an astounding observation of just how many of our rural communities are desperate for public safety and other resources necessary to thrive. Numerous cash-poor villages and towns are in terrible predicaments without any public safety presence and few options.

Is there any good news? Yes. Alaska’s mining industry. It continues to weather severe and often unwarranted criticism, while providing almost 15,000 jobs in communities around our state. Just six producing mines, two development projects and several advanced exploration projects are each the single largest property taxpayers in their regions, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into local economies and providing critically needed infrastructure and high-paying jobs that are breathing new life into rural communities long deprived of hope to improve their economic condition.

It has been said that labor rids us of three great evils — idleness, vice and poverty. Strong and vibrant communities, healthy families and good mining industry jobs are all inextricably linked together, opening paths to freedom, opportunity and a thriving self-sufficiency. The only losers are suicide, crime and substance abuse.

It’s important to remember the abundance of our natural resources and our commitment to market them was key to our gaining statehood 60 years ago. Congress feared that Alaska would be unable to raise enough taxes due to its small population and end up as a welfare state. The tide finally began to turn in favor of statehood with the discovery of gold and other natural resources. We were able to prove we could “pay our own way” and that our value to the U.S. was significant.

Alaska has been a natural resource extraction state for well more than 150 years, with the mining industry as the bedrock of our economy for nearly a century. Most of our population centers, from Juneau to Fairbanks to Nome, were founded by miners. Oil and gas are relative newcomers, and while the energy sector has a bright future, so does our mining industry. Today more than ever, Alaska needs this industry to realize its potential to help stabilize our economy, strengthen our communities and move Alaska forward into a more secure and prosperous future.

The simple truth is, we are no less desperate today for the hope, opportunity and economic freedom brought to us by the mining industry than we were 150 years ago. If a development project is awarded a permit because it has incorporated significant public input and met the necessary and stringent permit process requirements, then we should enthusiastically welcome the jobs, economic freedom, and family stability that flows from a well-developed, well-planned, community supported project that breathes new life into absolutely desperate areas of our state.

What does such a project look like? As recently reported by KTOO, the Donlin Gold project is currently busier renovating a century-old church in Chuathbaluk than building a mine because caring for their neighbor is a high priority. Eric Morgan Sr., subdeacon of the Russian Orthodox church said, “we can’t express our thanks (to Donlin) … like thanks from the heart from the whole village.” Donlin spokesperson Kristina Woolston simply stated, “It was the right thing to do.” Friends, this is generous, peaceful and life-renewing service in cooperation with the community.

Alaska’s mining industry employs Alaskans, whose concerns and burdens for the environment and a better life are the same as our own. Our mining industry routinely works with their neighbors to help alleviate suffering and improve the lives of their region.

I think it is fair to say most Alaskans want a well-regulated mining industry to flourish in our state, and desire to encourage more of this type of investment. But it will be necessary to stop the polarization and divisiveness that comes from caustic rhetoric, inaccurate information, and a false dichotomy that says it’s either mining jobs and infrastructure or protection of the environment. Our modern-day mines in Alaska have repeatedly shown that both needs can be well accommodated. The future of our state depends on the effort of multiple industries and entrepreneurs working together to move us forward into a more secure future.

Every successful mine is an exciting story of new life being breathed into Alaska. We need more of these stories today.

Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2016. This commentary is dedicated to the memory of his friend, the late Alaska Sen. Chris Birch, a mining engineer and a strong champion of responsible natural resource development.

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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

  • Whatever is determined in the courts, the rule of law must be followed. Without it we are nothing.

    • Right. The rule of law, Greg. As long as it fits your political agenda. And, as long as the lone judge deciding the rule of law rules in favor with your Lefty persuasion. Otherwise, you don’t like the rule of law. Your blanket statements about the rule of law are thinly disguised …..
      and can be seen plainly for who you really are.

      • I sir am Conservative. The law applies to everyone equally.

    • All of the Lefty bitching is reliant on whether or not ANY mine contaminant is actually released into the watershed. A mine such as Pebble would be safeguarded beyond the minimums required by government agencies. The scare tactics of the Left are so predictable that its s wonder we are still having these arguments about Pebble. Further, a 230 mile distance between mine and open water leaves plenty of separation for mother nature to do her work to mitigate the effects. A watershed argument is an all encompassing, blanket argument to not construct Pebble. Every location in Alaska, every location on the planet, involves a watershed. That argument is a sophist’s last ditch argument, reserved for Democrats, Lefties, and enviro-worshipping wackos, as a fallback argument. BUILD PEBBLE!

      • The sooner the better!

  • God bless you Suzanne. A voice of reason in a state of disrepair.

  • I thought Chuck Koop was a disgraced legislator but you’re printing and disseminating a letter he wrote???

    • Some people have the ability to separate issues and can distinguish between good and bad ideas. You might also be thinking about Representative Gary Knopp instead of Representative Chuck Kopp, not Koop, but then details schmetails…right.

  • The only thing I have to say about this or any other Resource Extraction is that American Resources should only be extracted by 100% American Companies for American citizens. Our Resources should stay in America for Americans. Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

    • Good luck with that. Virtually all major mines in America are operated by foreign companies. Concentrate is commonly shipped to the far east for processing and it’s certainly not segregated for US consumption. ENGOs and extreme environmentalist are weakening Americans independence.

    • maybe you should be asking american oil companies to leave the oil they drill offshore Canada for the canadian oil companies. Maybe you should open your eyes to reality and the world around you & stop being a “whining hypocrite .”

    • Can you name some American Mining Companies? Will that be your sole reason for keeping great paying jobs out of an economically depressed area? Not to mention the fact that the power plant needed to run mine will be left in place after the mining is completed, or would you prefer for the Americans in the area to keep living in the dark?

  • Thanks Suzanne for getting the accurate, non biased info out there. It’s very disheartening to see the minority of the AK legislature speak for the Majority of AK. That is not to my understanding the majority of AK’s feeling, do they not want a fair, rigorous, permitting process to take place? The message being sent over and over again from the opponents of this project is, they are not willing to trade one resource for another, but I beg to differ because that’s exactly what they are wanting. They have been squeezing the Oil Industry lemon for more and more and not surprisingly, BP is leaving. They don’t want roads built to remote locations because of disturbing the fish habitat. Wrong place wrong mine for Pebble is their MOTO, they are fighting Donlin, NEPA is suppose to be the “Magna Carta” of permitting process, but that is not good enough for Pebble. It’s ridiculous, no wonder why people are leaving this state. Dunleavy and his team are trying to cut the out of control budget spending but his lawmakers are fighting him tooth and nail.

  • ” In fact, the Pebble Project is 230 miles by river from Bristol Bay, … ” Just far enough to poison the entire watershed used by all thos millions of salmon and other fish resources.

    Why don’t you do a bit of research on sulfite mines and the water drainages they have been sited on. Report back on how those drainages have fared over the lives of the mines and beyond

    • Bingo.
      .
      We have a winner. This is not how watersheds work. Right next to watershed is right next to the bay. Icebergs are not just the tip, so on and so on.

    • Why don”t you do a little research on actual Pebble prospect engineering data and the geology involved?

    • Jere’s statement……Exhibit A by another radical Left-winger. Watershed. Drainage basin. Poison all the fish. Bla bla bla….! Go peddle your bike to work and catch your next fish using a stick and old paper clip. Try using your brain, if you have one.

      • Not at all left – much more right leaning centrist in fact.. Dump sulfuric acid in salmon spawning beds and see how many eggs/fry survive. It has been use of brain and examination of historical data and biological fact that brought my thinking to where it is. You might try the same.

  • If one reads the words of the manifesto…errrr, letter, that these folks signed it’s easy to tell they are not serious, or at least they shouldn’t be taken as serious. “Opposition to this project…is not frivolous, slanderous or interference” when your money line is that you aren’t something that you are, and done so by tortuously butchering the English language…it doesn’t make a good impression.

  • The greedy commercial fishing killed the great salmon runs of Alaska in the last 10 years! This year we got less than 1/2 of the normal runs! Don’t give me the fish sonar says different crap!
    Ask the people that have fished here for 20 years or more!
    Rivers were closed to fishing then open but bait was banned! But the commercial fishing was open all summer with record catches!
    BECAUSE THEY ARE BEING ALLOWED TO CATCH THE ESCAPEMENT FISH THAT SHOULD GET IN THE RIVERS AND SPAWN TO MAKE THE NEXT SALMON RUN!
    Hense! We have no fish left to protect anymore!
    MINE AWAY!

    • A dim bulb comment if ever there was one.

      • Joe, your comments are reserved for the “disrespectful” column. Take your ignominious statements and shove them in your cheeky mouth, between the next forkfull of luscious salmon steak. Your transportation to the store to buy your steak requires mined products, and refined fossil fuels. Your cellphone and laptop came out of the ground too. As did products to build your home. You sir, are an abject idiot, masquerading as an intellectual. MRAK has you wired. Go pull your next steak out of the creek that you so love. And try separating out the toxicity that leaches from your brain to your mouth.

  • Smilin’ Chuck is a pretty cagey dude. Writes a paean to mining and never mentions Pebble. Other interesting thing is that he holds up the permitting process as a Good Thing, but when he chose to caucus with House democrats, he put people in charge (Geran Tarr) of House Resources who are completely opposed to any and all resource development. Methinks he is worried about his primary next year. He should be. Cheers –

  • The resources of any country belongs to that country just like the land. Anything else is stealing, no matter who or what is involved. Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

    • Right. They belong to the land owners or share holders. Wherever they live.

      • Greg, SeeMore found it in Black’s Dictionary. A great read.

  • Nothing worse than an Urban legisators proclaiming what rural Alaska needs.
    First off Villages don’t want real cops. Second, they don’t want tribal members going to State Courts, that means actual punishment, hence, give them tons of money for pretend tribal courts. Third, every Village knows their homebrew artists. Fourth, real cops could arrest them all in a week with Village help, which would clear up better than 50 percent of the rural crime.

    Now Representatives show me court documents for conviction for Felony manufacture of alchol. Good luck on that.
    Quit stealing our PFD and pretending you know something about life in rural Alaska, especially Villages.

  • Pebble is on wetlands, ground water is just a few feet down. The first thing Pebble must do is lower the water table of the area to dig their 2000 foot hole. When lowering the water table many more miles of salmon producing waterways disappear. When the project is done, it leaves behind 5 containment reservoirs laden with sulfuric acid. All, I repeat All mines of this size destroy their surrounding watersheds. Pebble is trading one resource for another.
    Bristol Bay sustains the largest salmon runs consistently on earth. If we leave the watershed alone, it will continue to pump billions of dollars and feed millions of people in the world. This has always been the wrong mine in the wrong place.

    • Perfectly stated Mr Mark Niver

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