2013

15 October 2013

Five questions about the proposed Pebble mine

anpa2

Last week the non-profit Alaska Native Professional Association held a panel discussion focused on the proposed Pebble mine. Panelists include:

They answered the following questions, which had been formulated by the ANPA board. Panel moderator was Greg Razo, of Cook Inlet Region, Inc.

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11 October 2013

Oversight hearing focuses on EPA, mining impacts

VanvectorA House Natural Resources subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on what the Republican chairman called "abusive actions" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against mining operations across the country, including its watershed assessment on the proposed Pebble mine in Bristol Bay.

The hearing, titled "EPA vs. American Mining Jobs: The Obama Administration's Regulatory Assault on the Economy," offered the testimony of mining leaders from Alaska and West Virginia, as well as the deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation.

No representatives from the EPA attended; more than 90 percent of EPA employees are furloughed due to the government shutdown.

Much of the hearing focused on issues concerning coal mining in West Virginia and at mines in Alaska other than Pebble.

The hearing began with some dissention from Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who disputed whether the subcommittee had any jurisdiction over the EPA.
Leading the witness testimony was Edmund Fogels, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, who encouraged more state control over permitting and oversight.

Fogels said the impact on the Bristol Bay region of EPA's watershed assessment was "increased uncertainty in the regulatory framework for mining." The state is concerned, he said, that the federal agency is creating "new, ambiguous regulatory steps that exclude the state and duplicate processes already in place by existing state and federal laws."

According to a fact sheet on the EPA website, EPA's Clean Water Act veto authority has been used about a dozen times since 1972, out of more than 60,000 permit actions per year.

The state is not just concerned about one project, Fogels said, but is concerned about federal action causing the potential effective loss of all beneficial use of the area of land included in the Bristol Bay watershed assessment. Such land was promised to the state as part of the Statehood Act land entitlement to help secure an independent economic existence for Alaska and Alaskans.

"This is a serious concern, as the area of the watershed assessment represents almost 10 percent of the state of Alaska's land holdings," he said.
Fogels also noted the EPA assessment is based on hypothetical mining activity, rather than an official mine plan. The Pebble Limited Partnership has not yet released an official mine plan.

"If this mine plan did not comply with state mitigation and environmental protection laws, or did not receive appropriate federal permits under the CWA (Clean Water Act), it would not be able to go forward," he said. "All of these decisions would be made based on specific proposals, rather than speculation and conjecture."

Norman Van Vactor (pictured), the CEO and president of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, closed the witness testimony. Van Vactor noted the importance of the Bristol Bay's salmon fishery and the role the EPA has played to help protect the region.

He told the committee that an unprecedented grouping of tribes, regional and village corporations, as well as subsistence, commercial and sports fishermen, bonded to request EPA's involvement regarding Pebble. They did this because they didn't think the state would take such action.

He told the committee that EPA's watershed assessment has added knowledge and value to the discussion concerning the proposed mine and Bristol Bay, adding that this information is vital to our community and future activities proposed for the Bristol Bay watershed.

"The pure, pristine, and abundant water of Bristol Bay supports a salmon fishery that is the very foundation of Bristol Bay, unique in the world, and which is a national treasure," he said. "The people of Bristol Bay know we live in one of the most incredible places on earth. And that fishery is threatened to its core by the proposed Pebble mine."

Find a link to the video and the written statements on the Natural Resources Committee website.

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News roundup: Oct. 11

This week's news focuses mainly on employee layoffs at the Pebble Partnership.

Pebble employees let go after backer withdraws (Bristol Bay Times)

Anglo American's decision begins to have a ripple effect, as detailed in this story from Bristol Bay Times.

Read the story.

 

Without its monied partner, Pebble is cutting staff and ending contracts (Anchorage Daily News)

A similar story from the Anchorage Daily News.

Read the story.

 

 

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09 October 2013

Panel discussion on the Pebble project

The Alaska Native Professional Association (ANPA) has organized a panel discussion, "The Pebble Project: A Conversation Worth Having," to be held Oct. 9 in Grant Hall at Alaska Pacific University. Panelists will include representatives from:

  • Alaska Miners Association
  • Bristol Bay Native Corporation
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Pebble Limited Partnership
  • Alaska Peninsula Corporation

Doors open at 11 a.m., with the discussion running from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Limited tickets are available ($20 for ANPA members and $25 for non-members). 

More details/RSVP.

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04 October 2013

Intersection of Western science and Native knowledge

In a recent Native America Calling episode, host Tara Gatewood led a discussion about whether scientists can successfully combine traditional knowledge and Western scientific values. This is a topic of interest to Pebble Watch readers, as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) has a role in the scientific studies of Bristol Bay. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) included traditional knowledge in its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment and the Pebble Limited Partnership dedicated a chapter in its Environmental Baseline Document to "Subsistence and Traditional Knowledge."

Combining the two approaches can be difficult, as Gatewood's guests and callers point out on Native America Calling. In the context of Bristol Bay and studies conducted there, the EPA clearly states that there is a role for traditional knowledge: "Scientists recognize the value of working with people who live in an area and who have great insight into the natural processes at work in that area. While the scientific perspective is often different from the traditional perspective, both have a great deal to offer one another. Working together is the best way of helping us achieve a better common understanding of nature."

Listen to the Native America Calling episode.

Read the PLP Environmental Baseline Document: Subsistence and Traditional Knowledge

Read the EPA Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Characterization of the Indigenous Cultures of the Nushagak and Kvichak Watersheds

 

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30 September 2013

News Roundup: September 30, 2013

Why Anglo American walked away from the Pebble mine gold deposit

In this Business Week article, Brad Wieners tries to get at the heart of the reason Anglo American is withdrawing from the Pebble project, asking if the "No Dirty Gold" campaign could have affected Anglo's decision.

Read the story.

Laine Welch: Parnell says a decision on Chuitna mine still a ways off (Anchorage Daily News)

Laine Welch reported on a recent interview with Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, who responded to a question about what the Anglo American decision means for other investors. He is quoted as saying, "I cannot invest time and effort on a Pebble-permitting process when there isn't a company to come forward."

Read more here.

More potentially big, good news for Bristol Bay (Hatch magazine)

The online fly fishing magazine Hatch reports that EPA Chief Administrator Gina McCarthy was the keynote speaker last week at Trout Unlimited's annual membership meeting. During her address, McCarthy reportedly said that EPA is going to "follow the science" before taking a position on development in Bristol Bay, but that it is EPA's job to ensure development does not impact the sockeye salmon fishery.

Read the story.

In Pebble mine project, Alaskan villages see peril, promise (Anchorage Daily News)

In an Anchorage Daily News story picked up from Oregon to Miami, reporter Sean Cockerham focuses on the people of Iliamna and Dillingham, Alaska and what they think of the Pebble project.

Read the story in the Bend Bulletin.

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28 September 2013

2013 Arctic Science Conference, Kodiak, AK

Pebble Watch will present a poster at the 2013 Arctic Science Conference, September 26–28 in Kodiak, Alaska. The Arctic division of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) organizes the conference annually to highlight topics including climate, environmental change, natural resources, telecommunications and northern people and cultures. The focus of this year's conference is "Fisheries and Watersheds: Food Security, Education and Sustainability." According to the conference website, all conference sessions are open to the public and the public is welcome to attend. General admission fees will apply.

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27 September 2013

2013 Arctic Science Conference, Kodiak

Pebble Watch will present a poster at the 2013 Arctic Science Conference, September 26–28 in Kodiak, Alaska. The Arctic division of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) organizes the conference annually to highlight topics including climate, environmental change, natural resources, telecommunications and northern people and cultures. The focus of this year's conference is "Fisheries and Watersheds: Food Security, Education and Sustainability." According to the conference website, all conference sessions are open to the public and the public is welcome to attend. General admission fees will apply.

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26 September 2013

2013 Arctic Science Conference, Kodiak

Pebble Watch will present a poster at the 2013 Arctic Science Conference, September 26–28 in Kodiak, Alaska. The Arctic division of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) organizes the conference annually to highlight topics including climate, environmental change, natural resources, telecommunications and northern people and cultures. The focus of this year's conference is "Fisheries and Watersheds: Food Security, Education and Sustainability." According to the conference website, all conference sessions are open to the public and the public is welcome to attend. General admission fees will apply.

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Pebble Watch presents at Arctic AAAS conference

AAASposter Final0924thumbPebble Watch is presenting a poster at the 2013 Arctic AAAS conference in Kodiak this weekend. "Pebble Watch: An Educational and Fact-Based Initiative" describes the goals and activities of the program, and details how the program has evolved since its development in 2010.

The Arctic AAAS conference is held annually in Alaska. Pebble Watch last presented during its 2011 conference in Dillingham.

Read the poster abstract.

 

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