Rick Whitbeck Pebble Mine Testimony 4/11/2019

First of all, thank you for the opportunity to put my thoughts and comments on the record.

My name is Rick Whitbeck, and I have chosen to live in this beautiful state continuously since 1986. I’m currently employed by Power The Future, a national non-profit concerned with the way energy and natural resource development workers – especially in rural America, including Alaska – are underappreciated by the American public, and vilified by environmental extremists who challenge their jobs, pressure their ability to provide for their families, threaten their community fabric, and – should they ultimately “win” – destroy hope.

For years, Alaska has been fed a line by the extremists, that the Pebble Mine would doom the Bristol Bay fishery.  They say it like it is a guaranteed outcome – if its built, the fishery is dead.  This binary choice of fish or minerals is the most egregious of the lies, hypocrisy and false truths spun by the extremist movement.  Statements like those – misguided, may I add, are more than offset by the findings in section of the draft EIS, as well as the executive summary on page 71, which combine to crush the anti-Pebble narrative.

The facts are that the Pebble Project deserves the opportunity to make its case for building and safely operating their mine.  While everyone is entitled to their opinions, what shouldn’t be allowed is a blatant change of course by the extremists from holding up what they thought would be an anti-development EIS, to what they’re saying now, which is the EIS is scientifically and fundamentally flawed. That’s a slap in the face to each of you, who put your full and unbiased efforts into creating that document.

An operational Pebble equals jobs.  From the construction phase, where 2000 or so individuals will build the housing infrastructure, lay the power and heating requirements and build the basics of the production and operational facilities, to the ongoing, long-term employment of approximately 1000 full-time, hundred-thousand-a-year-plus mining and support jobs, the Pebble operation will be an amazingly effective solution to the significant unemployment the Borough consistently faces.

Once the lines about the binary choice between mining and fish are exposed as nothing more than well-spun fallacies, the very heart of the extremist messaging falls apart.  Jobs become solutions.  Jobs become a chance to move families forward economically, and jobs become hope.

The Pebble deposit also fulfills a worldwide need for copper.  While such a large part of the environmental Left catcalls those who believe fossil fuels are always going to be a major part of a global energy solution, they fail to recognize that if Pebble – and its enormous copper deposits – would pave the way for green energy solutions to be more attainable, affordable and efficient, why would anyone, let alone an eco-justice warrior, fight the project?  Oh yes, I forgot.  There’s that faulty, binary, “fish versus mining” argument again.

In closing, the Corps should be thanked for its outstanding, thorough, scientifically-based efforts to really look at the issue from an external and transparent perspective, and establish, without bias, whether the Pebble Project made environmental sense.  The draft EIS does that – clearly.

Let’s move forward with the process, allow Northern Dynasty to continue to prove its project plan that the mine can be built and operated safely. Emotions aside – and yes, environmental extremists, I’m talking to you – Pebble project IS good for Alaska, IS good for jobs near Bristol Bay, and SHOULD be allowed to move forward in the process.

Thank you again for your time today.

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