August 2012

30 August 2012

Pebble mine news roundup, Aug. 30

The week's news concerning the proposed Pebble mine is varied. See stories on a Lake and Pen conflicts of interest ruling, election results and a new study on climate change.

Judge insists local leaders near Pebble mine avoid conflicts of interest (Alaska Dispatch, Aug. 25)
An Alaska Superior Court judge has told two Southwest Alaska leaders with financial ties to the proposed Pebble mine to start obeying the law. A judge told Lake and Peninsula Borough Mayor Glen Alsworth Sr. and Assemblywoman Lorene "Sue" Anelon to stop using their official positions for personal or financial gain.

See the full story.

Ballot Measure 2 goes down by wide margin (Alaska Journal of Commerce, Aug. 29)
The ballot proposition that would have reestablished a state coastal management program in Alaska was heavily defeated by voters in the state's primary election held Aug. 28. Alaska is the only coastal U.S. state that does not have a coastal management program. The state's program expired in 2011, after the state Legislature failed to extend it.

See the full story.

Arctic sea ice melts to record low (Associated Press, via the Anchorage Daily News, Aug. 27)
The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that the Arctic sea ice shrank to record lows this summer, breaking the previous record set in 2007. Data center scientist Ted Scambos told the Associated Press the melt can be blamed mostly on global warming, as well as natural elements, including a large storm earlier this month.

See the full story.

See the full report by the National Snow and ice Data Center.

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22 August 2012

Register to attend October science panels on Pebble-related topics

The Keystone Center has planned a series of Independent Science Panels (ISP) in October on topics related to environmental studies released by the Pebble Limited Partnership. The 3-day panels will be held at the Consortium Library on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, and they will be open to the public. However, space is limited, so attendees must register in advance.

Scheduled topics

October 2: Geology and Geochemistry

October 3: Geology and Geochemistry, Hydrology and Water Quality Studies

October 4: Hydrology and Water Quality Studies

October 9: Fish, Wildlife and Habitat

October 10: Fish, Wildlife and Habitat, Socioeconomic and Cultural Studies

October 11: Socioeconomic and Cultural Studies

TBA: A final science panel discussion exploring both mining and no-mine scenarios is planned for a later date.

Can't attend in person?

The Independent Science Panels will be broadcast and web-streamed live by KTOO on Alaska Public Television.


Register to attend. (Space is limited.)

More information about the Keystone Center.

Read the Keystone Center's original stakeholder assessment on the Pebble project.

See videos from the first Independent Science Panel on the topic of Responsible Large-Scale Mining.

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Pebble mine news roundup

In the Aug. 28 primary elections, voters will decide on the controversial coastal zone management initiative. Here are two stories to help you better understand the initiative and who is paying for its defense and opposition.

Alaska voters to decide coastal zone initiative (Aug. 12, Associated Press, via Anchorage Daily News)

The most expensive campaign in Alaska this year is being waged over a proposal to re-establish a coastal management program in the state.

See the full story.

Oil companies spend big against Alaska coastal initiative (Aug. 21, Alaska Dispatch)

Pebble Partnership among big mining donors

Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and BP have contributed more than $400,000 in the last three weeks to defeat a ballot measure that supporters claim would restore Alaskans' voice in federal coastal decisions.

The top mining company donors in the last three weeks were Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo LLC, which owns Pogo gold mine outside Delta Junction, and Pebble Partnership, which proposes to develop a controversial gold and copper mine in Southwest Alaska. Both contributed $75,000 toward trying to sink Ballot Measure 2.

See the full story.

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16 August 2012

Pebble mine news roundup

Recent Pebble news focuses on the EPA peer review meeting, held Aug. 7-9, and heated political discussions on whether the EPA is moving too soon have gone nationwide. The November elections could affect the future of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Pebble plans move to mine permitting within months (Aug. 14, Associated Press, via Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)

The group seeking to develop a large gold-and-copper prospect in the Bristol Bay region is on track to release a mine plan later this year or early next year.

See the story here.

Congressional GOP members fear EPA will halt Pebble early (Aug. 10, Anchorage Daily News)

Congressional Republicans are lining up against the possibility that the Environmental Protection Agency would block the proposed Pebble mine in the Bristol Bay area, a region that produces about half the world's wild sockeye salmon.

See the story here.

Industry, GOP fear power-grab by EPA in Alaska mine decision (Aug. 15, The Hill)

Industry groups and Republican lawmakers fear the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is poised to set a new precedent in Alaska that could make it harder for companies to obtain mining permits near sensitive habitats.

Bristol Bay Native Corporation CEO Jason Metrokin is quoted, saying the EPA has the legal authority to protect salmon.

See the story here.

Wonder about how the presidential election might change the EPA? 

Mitt Romney's EPA would likely look familiar (May 7, Politico)

Mitt Romney isn't certain about climate change, wants to reverse or halt a handful of the Obama administration's environmental policies and would put the interests of business - and Congress - before the will of one of the executive branch's most embattled agencies.

But what really happens at Romney's Environmental Protection Agency?

See the story here.


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09 August 2012

EPA peer review panel: assessment has good information on fish, big gaps in many other areas

The 12 peer review panelists reviewing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment said Wednesday that, overall, the report is a good starting point to determine the agency's next steps regarding large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay region. The draft assessment did a good job at reviewing the potential affects that a large-scale mine would have on fish, especially salmon, but otherwise has several areas that should be addressed.

"This document is a good place to start, but is a work in progress," said William Stubblefield, a senior research professor in the Department of Molecular and Environmental Toxicology at Oregon State University and an expert in aquatic biology and ecotoxicology.

During the full-day meeting that was open to the public, reviewers said there are several gaps in the assessment. Several panelists noted the lack of consideration for any potential effects of climate change.

"I don't know how you can do any assessment without that," said Gordon Reeves, a research fish biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Aquatic and Land Interaction program. "It's going to have a big impact, especially with combined with the changes with a mine. There are tools out there that can help with this process."

Several panelists said the assessment also failed to consider how regulatory agencies may curtail the various risks outlined in the report, and it omitted the effects to other wildlife.

The panelists were tasked to review 14 charge questions, each asking about the soundness of the science in the report. They also were asked for recommendations for other literature or data not referenced in the assessment.

Chairman Roy Stein, professor emeritus at the Ohio State University in Columbus and an expert in fisheries and aquatic biology, led the discussions. Stein read each question and panelists were free to offer their comments and suggestions, taking about a half-hour for each. Occasionally, scientists had technical discussions on a topic: one would ask a question and others would offer their expertise on the subject.

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08 August 2012

EPA peer review continues today

Twelve peer review scientists continue their meeting in Anchorage today to discuss the EPA’s draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, which examines the potential impacts of large-scale mining in the Nushagak and Kvichak River watersheds.

Yesterday, more than 100 members of the public were granted three minutes each to comment on the scientific merits of the assessment, with testimony ranging from technical suggestions to emotional pleas. Today, the scientists’ deliberations continue without public comment. Preregistered members of the public may attend to observe; others may watch by live webcam. (Updates will also be provided at the Pebble Watch Facebook site.)

About the Peer Review team

The peer review team consists of independent scientists who are experts in areas ranging from mining and seismology to aquatic and wildlife ecology—chosen with input from the public by contractor Versar. EPA also sought public input to develop a list of 14 “charge questions” that will guide team deliberations. (Read EPA’s final Bristol Bay Charge Questions online.) Peer reviewers are charged with considering the comments; they have both a summary version and direct access to individual submissions.

Public participation has been high throughout the watershed assessment process. The assessment has been the most commented-on subject in his tenure, said EPA Region 10 Director Dennis McLerran, drawing more than 220,000 registered comments—90 percent of them generally supportive of the assessment. McLerran has been with the agency since February 2010.

Peer review meetings continue on Thursday, when the team will meet without members of the public present. Following the meetings, peer reviewers will prepare individual reviews; these will be compiled by Versar for release, first to EPA, then to the public by fall.

Photo: Joseph Chythlook, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, tells the peer review panel that the EPA has "done a good job" on its draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. "The document confirms what I know as a subsistence fisherman."

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Public meeting with Watershed Assessment Peer Review Team

Deliberations of the peer review team for the EPA Bristol Bay Draft Watershed Assessment will be open to the public on August 7 and 8, 2012. For details, visit EPA's website.

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07 August 2012

Public meeting with Watershed Assessment Peer Review Team

Deliberations of the peer review team for the EPA Bristol Bay Draft Watershed Assessment will be open to the public on August 7 and 8, 2012. For details, visit EPA's website.

Read more

02 August 2012

Pebble mine news roundup: August 3

Recent Pebble news focuses on the PBS Frontline documentary, Alaska Gold, and industry critics of the U.S. EPA's Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.

"Pebble Mine Documentary: Comprehensive and Controversial" (July 25, 2012 - KTUU Channel 2 News)
Reporter Dan Fiorucci covers the PBS Frontline documentary on the Pebble debate, including commentary from Pebble Limited Partnership CEO John Shively and former Alaska State Sen. Rick Halford. According to Fiorucci, Shively called the documentary "flawed," while Halford said that it "outlined the serious issues at stake and did it well."
Read the entire article at KTUU Channel 2.

"Partner in Pebble mine fires back at EPA report" (July 31, 2012 -
Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and the Pebble Limited Partnership both have responded critically to the U.S. EPA's draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.
Read the entire article on the PBS web site.

PBS articles complementing the Alaska Gold documentary
PBS has published articles that focus on different aspects of the Pebble debate:

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01 August 2012

Can’t make the EPA peer review meeting? Watch the webcast

For those who can't make the meeting, you may watch the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency peer review panel via webcast. The EPA panel is set to meet in Anchorage Aug. 7-9 to discuss the science and research in the draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment, as well as listen to public comments on the issue.

Webcasts will be available to the public for the first two days.

Instructions for watching the webcasts: When you click the webcast links, you will be prompted to sign in to an Adobe Connect webinar session. 

  • Select Enter as a Guest
  • Enter your name in the Name field (or leave it blank)
  • Select Enter Room

Information about the meeting and peer review panelists is published in the Federal Register. Read the Federal Register notice.

The peer review panel will base its review on questions that were developed with public input. Final Peer Review Charge Questions (PDF).

For other infomation on the EPA draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment, see the EPA site.

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