June 6th, 2012

Think About It……….                                                                                       June 6, 2012

Why in the world does a supposedly neutral federal agency jump the gun to help anti-development forces trying to derail a project before it is even defined?

The Environmental Protection Agency’s very quick, very speculative, and very broad watershed analysis of mining, as in the proposed Pebble Prospect near Iliamna, borders on the ridiculous when it comes to being neutral.

Remember that Pebble is only a proposed mine. It potentially could produce 81 billion pounds of copper, 107 million ounces of gold and 6 billion pounds of molybdenum. 

Proponents tout its jobs and a healthy fiscal future for economically hard-hit Southwest Alaska. Opponents say it would threaten fisheries that generate 14,000 mostly part-time jobs that are valued at $480 million, with $300 million from the commercial fishery alone.

The only opportunity, so far, to weigh local sentiment was last fall’s advisory election in the Lake and Pen Borough. The outcome was 280 to 246 to block Pebble, certainly not an overwhelming majority. Obviously not everyone opposes the Pebble proposal, which is remarkable, considering a very long and bitter campaign in the media.

The target of a grinding, endless propaganda attack financed by a filthy-rich Anchorage money manager who owns a fishing lodge in the region, the Pebble prospect remains just that, a prospect. There is No mine. No specific, detailed plan for a mine. No state application to build a mine. No request for EPA permission to build a mine.

Yet in spite of all this, and with no detailed final plan from which to work, the Federal EPA ginned up hypotheticals to conclude that large-scale mining in Southwest Alaska could harm Bristol Bay’s prized salmon habitat.

After a very quick, one year,  assessment of 20,000 square miles the EPA surmised a mine dam could collapse, or not; that nearby streams could be lost, or not; that streams could be blocked, or not. The EPA concluded that even if everything went right, something could go wrong. However, the odds against it are long. As the Associated Press put it, the odds of stream degradation are in the range of 1 in 10,000 for a project designed using standard engineering practices, and 1 in 1 million for a state of the art operation.

The war against Pebble has been misguided, an operation to kill it before it reaches a fair hearing. It is easier, after all, to lie about Pebble on television than dispute the facts in an open forum. Why wouldn’t the EPA, rather than being enticed to abuse its authority, offer its information to Alaska to help achieve an informed decision on Pebble’s application, when one finally exists, and then let the process work. Anything else screams collusion.

If the EPA were to unilaterally block Pebble, it would bode ill for all future resource extraction in our state, and challenge Alaska’s rights to all its resources.

But then, maybe that is the goal.

Think About It!            JCD   6-6-12



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