Walker to Army Corps of Engineers: Stop Pebble now



No sooner had the Friday deadline passed to help determine the range of an environmental impact statement, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was asked by Alaska’s governor to stop the Pebble Mine Project environmental review in its tracks.

Gov. Bill Walker on Saturday told the Corps to just say “no” to Pebble’s due process for an environmental impact statement process.

“The PLP (Pebble Limited Partnership) has yet to demonstrate to us or the Alaska public that they have proposed a feasible and realistic project. Without, at minimum a preliminary economic assessment, but preferably a pre-feasibility study, the corps will be unable to take a hard look at all the reasonable alternatives in the draft EIS,” the governor wrote in a letter to the Corps that was also signed by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.

That may be true, but especially so because the project hasn’t been able to go through an environmental review process to make its case for mine-watershed compatibility.

The Walker Administration has previously taken a stand against the Pebble Mine, even while the mine developer has scaled the project back to within a range of what the EPA had once said would be acceptable. But during a gubernatorial debate in Naknek earlier this month, Democratic challenger Mark Begich said Walker was not doing enough to oppose the mine. On Saturday, Walker responded to Begich’s election-year jibe and stepped up his game in challenging the Corps.

The objective of the scoping was simply to identify specific elements of the environment that might be affected by the copper and gold mine planned for 200 miles West of Anchorage.

This spring, the Walker Administration asked the Corps to delay the scoping deadline, which it did — from April 30 to June 29. It was a delay tactic by the Walker Administration, but it wouldn’t be his last word on the matter.

“Given the unique characteristics of the region, the mine proposed by Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) must be held to an extraordinarily high standard,” Walker wrote. “I thank you for previously extending the scoping period, as requested in a letter from Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mack to Colonel Michael Brooks.”

Walker said that the project should go through a “pre-feasibility study” before the Corps would be allowed to thoroughly review the environmental impact statement.

Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier issued a statement of his own on Saturday, in response to the governor’s letter:

“The governor has said we have a high bar to demonstrate how we can mine and protect the salmon in the area around Pebble. It is this Corps Environmental Impact Statement process that will give Alaskans answers and assurance to this very issue. We believe we can successfully and responsibly operate a mine at Pebble. This is what the Corps will evaluate and we can either meet this expectation or we cannot.

“The scoping process for Pebble has just concluded and we look forward to reviewing the scoping report outlining the many issues that the Corps will review in their evaluation of Pebble.

“We find it incredibly disappointing that the governor’s request to suspend the NEPA process is nearly identical to that brought forward by the anti-Alaska, anti-development Natural Resources Defense Council. We expect this type of stall tactic from ENGOs opposed to any kind of development but not from the Governor of Alaska and especially when the project is on Alaska land. Frankly, the governor does not make a compelling case to suspend the NEPA process.

“It is this type of behavior that makes many in the global investment community reluctant to invest in Alaska. Alaska is consistently ranked very high for our resource potential yet we continue to score poorly on political and permitting stability, frequently showing up with jurisdictions that have very little regard for the rule of law.

“Pebble is located on state land and as such is a potentially important asset for Alaska’s economic future. Pebble could provide jobs, revenue, and economic activity for the region and the rest of the state. As such, it must be thoroughly evaluated. We believe our technical and environmental work can meet Alaska’s standards for development and when we do that we can put thousands to work.

“We know that that vast majority of Alaskans, regardless of their views about our project, support the rule of law and a fair process for reviewing Pebble. The Governor of Alaska should believe in this process too,” Collier said.

During the scoping process, people were invited to recommend the kinds of topics that an environmental impact statement should include. A review of the comments made online reveal that the vast majority of comments were simply opposed to the project under any conditions, and were not actual recommendations to determine the scope of the environmental investigation.

Read the 15,044 comment made at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website here.

Pebble has been a lightning rod project, spawning ballot initiatives since 2008, when 57 percent of Alaskan voters said no to a ballot measure that would have killed the project. This year’s Stand for Salmon ballot initiative is strongly motivated by environmentalists’ desire to stop the Pebble Mine.


  1. If Walker wants to cancel a mega-project that is not “feasible or realistic”, he should cancel his fantasy gas line to China project.

  2. Note to Bill and Byron: The permitting process is how you figure out what the mine will look like and how it will operate.

    Walker to Alaska: Get out. No jobs for you, unless of course you build your mine on native land, which would be perfectly acceptable (nothing like a racial test for mining) like Donlin Creek in the next watershed to the west. Better yet, we will not even try to figure out how to do mining and salmon at the same time (Alaskan equivalent of walking and chewing gum). Expect Begich to say the same thing.

    Democrats (Walker included) are now the party of special interests (unions, Bush native separatists, greens, among others), virulently in opposition to jobs, and any attempt to grow the economy of this state. And it makes sense as dependent people vote democrat, the rest of us , not so much. And Walker aims to manufacture as many of them as humanly possible. Cheers –

  3. The Salmon are starting to glow in the deep sea from the waste of Fukushima…… Governor, you may like to try this NEW Specie of Alaskan Salmon…………. Try it you’ll like it…………..

  4. Governor Walker’s action is clearly in violation of Art. VIII, Sec. 1 of Alaska’s Constitution to wit: “It is the policy of the State to encourage the settlement of its land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest.” You will note that the use of the noun “resources” is plural.

    James Hendrix’s comment is also appropriate. A final feasibility study on Pebble will be totally predicated upon final design with in turn is totally dependent upon the conclusions of the final NEPA driven EIS document. Where is the Governor’s purposed gas line in this protocol, “feasible and realistic”?

    It would appear that the common refrain from our politicians that Alaska is “open for business” must now be expanded to include “but only when such business enjoys the blessing of the Governor.”

    Mineral development projects in Alaska must follow a process defined by law. For Governor Walker to step in and unilaterally attempt to alter that process is unacceptable and definitely raises a red flag to any future mineral investment.

  5. Walker and Begich are fighting for the very same voters, so each will point at the other and say, “I am more against Pebble than that guy is.” Those of us who believe in following the processes required by law and the Constitution will continue to be relieved that Dunleavy is the grown-up in the room. It’s incumbent upon all of us to make sure Dunleavy is the winner on November 6. The Pebble developers have mismanaged the public process right from the beginning, especially at the beginning, but each time Walker, Mallott and Begich speak of Pebble they send a very negative message to anyone who is considering or might one day consider investing in any natural resource business in Alaska; even tourism as the same people opposing Pebble are against any tourist arriving on a cruise ship or RV. Finally, if there are any commercial fishing people backing Walker or Begich I would say to them that Walker, Begich and the alt-Left are not your friends as you are in business so your interests are aligned with those of Mike Dunleavy, the incoming Governor.

  6. Like the project or not, the Environmental Assessment needs to happen. If not now, it’ll start all over under a future Administration. The time and funding already spent on the process will all be for naught. What a waste of Alaskan hard earned money. Walker disappoints again.

  7. No surprises here Suzanne. This is nothing more than a desperate “me too” response to Begich’s anti-Pebble stance. This project must proceed through the NEPA process for independent evaluation by the Army Corps of Engineers. That’s how we do things in America. Any citizen, organization or politician who believes they can predict the environmental impact that a mine at Pebble will have on Bristol Bay is a charlatan. Let this thorough, scientific evaluation continue without interruption and when the EIS is published in 2019 we can all weigh in.

  8. If opponents of Pebble are so sure that this mine will adversely affect the Bristol Bay fishery why are they afraid to let it go through the permitting process? NEPA has a reputation of being the environmental gold standard throughout the world.

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