Down But Definitely Not Out: Pebble’s Politicized Negative Record of Decision is Appealed

Down But Definitely Not Out: Pebble’s Politicized Negative Record of Decision is Appealed

January 26, 2021

The shocking end to the Pebble Mine’s NEPA process, the negative record of decision (RoD) announced last November by the Alaska Army Corps of Engineers, shocked many observers from both the pro-Pebble backers and the “Pebble Mine – Never!” crowd.

They were shocked because the clean, science-based Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was overridden by the RoD, and also stunned because the Corps’ “thoroughly-reviewed” decision came only two workdays after Pebble submitted its required compensatory mitigation plan.

Eco-zealots, including the NRDC, Save Bristol Bay and Trout Unlimited (yes, think about that the next time TU asks you to renew your membership, anglers!) immediately took credit for helping the Corps understand that Pebble should never be built, and increasing their calls for permanent protection in the Bristol Bay watershed.

Rational thinking people, however, saw the gaps in logic from the Corps, and realized the process had been hijacked by “important” people; turning a historically non-political process on its head, and interjecting political favor where it shouldn’t be.

Given that fact, the 60-day timeline for Pebble to appeal the decision to the Corps’ Pacific Ocean Division, based in Hawaii, became the next deadline to watch.  On January 21, Pebble announced it had filed the appeal, noting in their press release:

“The ROD abandoned decades of precedent in how wetlands and resource projects in Alaska should be managed and regulated. We believe we have presented a strong case in our appeal and look forward the next steps in advancing this important mineral asset. Pebble contains a world-class resource that belongs to the people of Alaska and could bring much needed employment and economic activity for the region and the state. The FEIS found that the project can be developed without damage to the Bristol Bay fishery, a finding that was mostly ignored in the decision to deny Pebble a permit.”

On January 25, the State of Alaska, which owns the land and mineral rights at the proposed minesite, joined the appeals process as an “affected party.”  In its appeal, the State took the Corps to task on its rushed decision and over-reaching action, noting:

If the District’s decision stands, it will raise serious doubts about the durability of the cooperative-federalism framework. This is disconcerting in any context, but the District’s disregard for the Clean Water Act’s explicit language protecting the State’s interests makes the ramifications of this appeal far reaching. Indeed, under the Permit Denial, the District has, in effect, granted itself authority to dictate land use policies in Alaska. This is simply unacceptable.”

Power The Future remains 100% behind the Pebble project, and its benefits to the people near the minesite.  Aside from generationally-changing jobs, the potential revenues to state and local governments are enormous.  Decisions like the ones made by the Corps – based on semantics and feelings rather than on science and facts – deserve to be challenged.  We’ll be keeping an eye on the results of the appeals and reporting back as news breaks.