Commentary: Pebble tries to hide disaster-in-waiting behind attacks on EPA, mine critics – by Alannah Hurley (Alaska Dispatch News – October 19, 2015)

Alannah Hurley is a lifelong Bristol Bay resident and executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. UTBB is a tribal consortium representing 14 tribes (over 80 percent of the total population of Bristol Bay) working to protect the Bristol Bay watershed that sustains the Yup’ik, Denai’na and Alutiq way of life.

If you read their press releases recently, you would get the impression that the Pebble Limited Partnership is having a very good bit of luck. That’s because a bought-and-paid for “independent” report by former Defense Secretary William Cohen stated that the company was treated “unfairly” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the people of Bristol Bay.

With all due respect to Mr. Cohen, who is neither a scientist nor a legal expert, a review of Pebble’s hand-selected documents and a flyover will not come close to really evaluating Bristol Bay or how its people feel about the potential development of a colossal open-pit mine in their backyard. Rather, Mr. Cohen’s “report” is simply the latest in a long line of Pebble-backed propaganda — with the mining company playing the role of innocent victim, and Bristol Bay’s residents the villains.

The report argues a traditional mining review process should have been undertaken in Bristol Bay. Tellingly, however, the report agrees that the EPA’s proposed Clean Water Act restrictions on Pebble’s development are completely, 100 percent legal. Given this, the best the report can muster is that the EPA acted “unfairly” toward Pebble and “blocked” the traditional mining review process from commencing. In reality, the only thing stopping this process is Pebble itself.

Every year, for nearly 10 years now, Pebble has promised to submit its permit applications and begin the review process. Each year we waited. When nothing was filed, local residents asked the company directly to see the proposal. Nothing. After our region petitioned the EPA to protect our watershed, others began to wonder where Pebble’s plan was. Even Sen. Lisa Murkowski, in a letter to Pebble’s executives, pushed the company to be transparent about its plans. Still, years later, nothing.

Instead of accepting responsibility or acknowledging its own faults, Pebble instead has decided to remedy its situation by attacking anyone who has opposed or questioned the project and paying for self-congratulating reports, like the one from Mr. Cohen.

In 2013, Pebble aimed to punish, via bankruptcy, one of Alaska’s founders, Vic Fischer, along with former first lady, Alaska Native and Bristol Bay resident, Bella Hammond by insisting they personally pay Pebble’s legal fees in a case brought to validate the rights of all Alaskans. Luckily, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled against Pebble’s claims.

Next, Pebble filed more federal lawsuits to delay the thorough and transparent EPA review process when over 1.5 million Americans stood up to say, “no thanks” to their mega-mine. Today, many who supported EPA, especially those of us from Bristol Bay, are being slapped with subpoenas by Pebble in an aggressive effort to silence any opposition to the project.

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