Pebble update 2021: State of Alaska vs. Alaskans

On Friday Jan. 6, during the siege on the Capitol, Gov. Dunleavy announced that the state of Alaska would appeal the Army Corps’ denial of a permit for the proposed Pebble mine. So in our first Pebble update 2021, we see the state of Alaska supporting mining interests even as most Alaskans oppose Pebble.

Pebble update 2021: State of Alaska promotes Pebble while Alaskans fight to stop it.
UTBB’s Jan. 22 social media message after Pebble’s appeal.

It’s unfathomable and procedurally inappropriate for the State to appeal.

“The state’s attempt to administratively appeal the Army Corps’ decision blatantly disregards the science and puts the pocketbook of a Canadian mining company above those of its own citizens,” said Katie Strong, senior staff attorney with Trustees for Alaska. “The Corps should reject the appeal immediately.” 

The state can’t appeal

Army Corps regulations do not allow the state to file an administrative appeal. Only the permit applicant—aka the Pebble Partnership—can appeal. The state does not have a right to do so. Trustees sent a letter on behalf of our clients saying as much to the Army Corps in mid-January.

The state’s effort to promote and defend the project presents an unfortunate dynamic in which the Governor keeps pushing a project that citizens don’t want while ignoring what they do—permanent protections for the Bristol Bay watershed and demonstrated support for investment in local sustainable economies.

The state sent out a press release about its appeal on Jan. 6 and finally submitted it on Jan. 25. Pebble submitted its appeal just days before.

The spectacle that is Pebble

Pebble update: State of Alaska vs. Alaskans
Togiak sunset. Photo by Brian Abraham.

Pebble’s parent company, Northern Dynasty Minerals, claims the Army Corps decision to deny it a key permit is contrary to the law and unprecedented in Alaska.

Just to clarify, Northern Dynasty asserts that its Pebble mine proposal—which would destroy thousands of acres of wetlands and hundreds of miles of streams, and that poses a grave risk to a watershed that supports thriving salmon runs that feed people in the region and around the world; that threatens thousands and thousands of jobs in recreational and commercial fishing; and endangers Yup’ik, Dena’ina and Alutiiq cultures and ways of life that have thrived for millennia—has gotten a bum rap.

What’s not unprecedented is mining companies devastating local communities and economies. This is precisely why science matters. Why public input matters. Why the law matters.

Forever protections for Bristol Bay

Northern Dynasty’s desperate claims are founded in greed, not fact.

Right after the Northern Dynasty press release went out, United Tribes of Bristol Bay called for the Environmental Protection Agency to establish Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay once and for all.

“For two decades, the people of Bristol Bay have fought to protect our home from the threat of mines like Pebble because we recognize that our clean waters and lands are more precious than gold. Pebble ignored the people of Bristol Bay at every step of the way, and continues to try to use politics and lies to advance this project and manipulate investors. Enough is enough. We need permanent protections that will provide us with certainty that projects like Pebble will never be allowed to devastate every facet of life in Bristol Bay.”

Robert Heyano, board president for United Tribes of Bristol Bay in a press release

We stand with UTBB and all those defending Bristol Bay. And we will continue to fight to ensure that Bristol Bay is permanently protected and that the book on Pebble is permanently closed.