The truth behind Pebble's deception campaign

Bristol Bay sockeye. Photo by Fly Out Media.
 
By Jenny Weis
 
Pebble’s not taking the hint. Americans, Alaskans and Bristol Bay residents overwhelmingly oppose their mine. Yet, they are at it again trying to convince Americans, and now Congress, that they were treated unfairly and should be able to pursue their mine.
 
Before we get into the details, let’s pause. If you are thinking, “I thought this fight was over?” Don’t worry, we know it’s confusing but here’s the short of it: until EPA’s proposed protections for Bristol Bay are finalized, and as long as there is gold and copper in the ground, Pebble is going to keep trying to move this risky mine forward.
 
Bristol Bay residents packed EPA hearings around the region to help secure protections against Pebble mine.
 
Many of you weighed in on proposed protections by the EPA last summer that would protect the salmon, jobs and culture of Bristol Bay from threats posed by Pebble. Ultimately, over 99 percent of the comments received were in favor of protecting Bristol Bay from mines like Pebble.
 
After losing major investors, the overwhelming support for EPA protections dealt Pebble another major blow. In desperation, the company filed a series of lawsuits to delay these protections that Bristol Bay tribes, thousands of Alaskans and over a million Americans supported. While those (frivolous) lawsuits are tied up in court, Pebble has succeeded in temporarily delaying the protections we all asked for.
 
In the meantime, they are using the time they bought to wage an expensive campaign to deceive Americans and now members of Congress that they were somehow treated “unfairly” by the group of locals who merely stood up to protect their homes, jobs and culture from the risky mining proposal.
 
Bristol Bay Rainbow. Photo by Pat Ford
 
The latest in their expensive deception campaign came in the form of a report they paid for to make them look good among the D.C. crowd and the Beltway press. At the beginning of October, for U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen released his so-called “independent report,” which claims the EPA process was unfair to Pebble. Though the bias is painfully obvious, we are disappointed that the report seemed to have some traction with the media and recently, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Earlier this month, the Committee heard arguments by Cohen and Pebble croonies, allowing only ONE person to testify in opposition to the mine and in support of the EPA process. As anticipated, the media started in on their “he said,” “she said” reports, which Pebble hoped would make it seem like their mine stands a chance in Bristol Bay.
 
Fortunately, Bristol Bay residents, Alaskans and Americans have spoken clearly: Pebble mine is too risky for Bristol Bay. Click here to see the statement by local tribes, commercial fishermen and anglers on the day of the hearing.
 
If you are interested in the details, here is the true history of what happened in Bristol Bay. We expect Pebble will continue trying to mischaracterize this in continued reports and hearings so we wanted to set the record straight:
 
  • Bristol Bay residents have created numerous resolutions opposing Pebble, and Pebble filed suit against those efforts.
  • Starting as far back as 2004, Pebble has promised many times that they would file for their federal permits, but we still have yet to see their application.
  • Bristol Bay residents turned to the state of Alaska for help. The state not only failed to listen to local concerns, but even took steps making it easier for development atop of the salmon-rich waters of the region.
  • Meanwhile, the company has filed thousands of pages of planning documents with state agencies and their investors. Pebble conveniently had a plan when it was in their best interest, but didn’t have a plan when it came to applying for permits and starting a public review process.
  • In 2010, six tribes and commercial and sport fishermen were beyond frustrated that they had to keep waiting for Pebble and had no seat at the table when it came to decisions about their water and salmon. So, they turned to the EPA for help.
  • The EPA listened to their concerns. The agency conducted extensive outreach and held multiple public hearings, which resulted in over 1.5 million comments and two multi-year, peer-reviewed scientific assessments.
  • Panicking about this and knowing their voice no longer has any credibility within Bristol Bay, Pebble sued when the EPA took action and complained to Congress.
  • Now, Congress is condemning and attacking the only agency that has listened to the locals and taken steps to be fair and review their plans based on science instead of rhetoric.
 
 
We agree – this is unfair. However the unfairness is completely to the residents and business owners in Bristol Bay whose salmon, jobs and culture are threatened by Pebble mine and a company who will stop and nothing to make money.
 
 
Jenny Weis is the Communications and Digital Advocacy Coordinator for Trout Unlimited's Alaska Program. She lives and works in Anchorage.
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