Liberals and conservatives support Pebble Mine

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Alaska’s Pebble Mine has been heavily criticized by environmentalists who argue that it will damage salmon habitats and wetlands, but a politically diverse coalition is asking the government to follow the normal approval process.

The pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a local chapter of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, the Washington Post and the liberal Center for American Progress have all come out against the Environmental Protection Agency’s preemptively blocking the mining project.

“Regardless of whether you support or oppose the Pebble Mine project, we all should agree that a potential project has a right to go through the permitting process,” writes the Chamber of Commerce’s William Kovacs in a letter to the EPA. “That is one of the underlying reasons for having a permitting process in place. The permitting process protects our environment and natural resources while providing regulatory certainty to the regulated community.

The Pebble Mine has been the center of a political battle over the EPA’s power to veto large-scale mining projects under federal clean water laws. The agency issued its second draft assessment of the mine earlier this year and found that it could impact the local salmon fishery and surrounding wetlands.

However, Republicans and mine supporters have criticized the EPA’s review for not evaluating any of the actual plans for the mine — as none have been put forward.

“The current assessment undermines the existing process via a preemptive decision based on a hypothetical mine,” writes A.J. Merrick, business manager of LIUNA Local 13. “Every project should have an opportunity to be reviewed under the existing permitting process. If the process determines a project as designed cannot protect the environment and other resources, it will not advance.”

The George Soros-funded Center for American Progress has expressed support for the EPA’s review of the controversial mine, but is “not calling on the agency to pre-emptively veto the controversial Pebble LP mine” reports E&E News.

“All [the mine developers] want, they say, is a fair and thorough evaluation of their claims,” writes the Washington Post editorial board. “That is reasonable. If complete federal reviews find that the companies can’t protect the fishery, regulators can reject the project. But, given the potential economic value of the mine, they should hear the companies out.”

Mine supporters argue that the mine will create valuable jobs in the economically depressed region of southwest Alaska while also giving the U.S. greater mineral security. Opponents argue that the mine could damage the pristine environment in the surrounding area.

“Pebble Mine would risk the 14,000 jobs and $1.5 billion supported by Bristol Bay’s most famous resource: wild salmon,” writes the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Taryn Kiekow. “It is the most valuable wild salmon fishery in the world.  Why risk a sustainable, renewable resource for a short-term mine?”

Despite campaigning by both sides of the issue, local tribes remain split over whether or not the mining project should be allowed to move forward.

“[Environmental groups] have spread misinformation,” Abraham Williams, president of the pro-development nonprofit Nuna Resources, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “They have done a serious injustice to our region. They have polarized people in our region which doesn’t allow you to sit down and talk about the issues that you have and how you are going to overcome these issues.”

The EPA extended the comment period for the second draft assessment of the mine expired at the end of last month, but the assessment is expected to be peer-reviewed before it is finalized.

“They have used hypothetical mine scenarios, which is very concerning to us,” Williams added. “I think this is a tool that the opposition has been using and, quite frankly, I believe that there are some within the Environmental Protection Agency that like to use this watershed assessment as a tool to create fear or anxiety over the project as well.’

“We’ve been told that the EPA is going to use the best possible science to judge the risks of this particular project. I have reservations about that,” Williams concluded.

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