Murkowski vows to block Pebble Mine from production

October 19, 2020

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski told a virtual convention that she feels the Pebble Mine project is the “wrong mine in the wrong place.”

It was her strongest objection to the proposed mine from chairwoman of the Senate Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. She said she planned to the protect the region from development with the use of federal appropriations process to protect the region.

The Bristol Bay region, where the mine would be built, is home to the world's biggest salmon run and one of its largest commercial fisheries. Murkowski is also chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“I simply think that this is the wrong mine in the wrong place,” Murkowski said. “We need longer-term protections for the region that can also provide enduring value for Alaskans.”

Roll Call reported that Murkowski submitted language in the fiscal 2020 Interior-Environment spending bill that directed the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a more rigorous environmental assessment of the project's risks. “I plan to build on my appropriations language from last year to make sure that the Bristol bay region remains protected,” she said.

Pebble Mine has stalled since 2014, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency blocked the project, citing risks to fish in the region. The project has come under scrutiny and political pressure in recent weeks.

The environmental group the Environmental Investigation Agency released last month secretly recorded tapes of the executives pushing for approval. Company executives Tom Collier and Ron Thiessen, the CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., the Canada-based parent company behind the project, indicated on those tapes the project could last longer than they had told Congress.

Murkowski has largely remained skeptical but not fervently opposed to Pebble Mine as the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, the other key federal agency evaluating the proposed mine, have studied the site during the Obama and Trump administrations.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, who is running for reelection against Al Gross, an independent, came out against the mine on Aug. 24, shortly after the corps determined that the project would not meet federal water permitting guidelines. Gross has pressed Sullivan to return campaign money received from Pebble Mine executives. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the election "likely Republican."

House Democrats added an amendment to the $1.3 trillion six-bill spending package to block funding for approval of Pebble Mine. The amendment was sponsored by Reps. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., Jackie Speier, D-Calif., Mike Levin, D-Calif., and Harley Rouda, D-Calif.

Prominent conservatives, Donald Trump Jr., Tucker Carlson and Nick Ayers, the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, came out against Pebble this summer.

 

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