FULL HOUSE – The main hall at Harrigan Centennial Hall is packed for the first day of the Southeast Conference Wednesday. At the conclusion of the conference, state Rep. Dan Ortiz, Ketchikan independent; Rep. Sara Hannan, Juneau Democrat; and Sen. Jesse Kiehl, Juneau Democrat, spoke about the need to protect school and ferry systems from further budget reductions.  (Sentinel Photo)

Legislators Rebuke Gov’s Pebble Views

    ANCHORAGE – Twenty members of the Alaska Legislature on Monday signed a letter contradicting statements made by Gov. Mike Dunleavy about the ease with which the State of Alaska might permit the proposed Pebble Mine.
    A news release from the state house majority said the legislators were reacting to Dunleavy’s July 30 letter to the chief executive officer of Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. in which the governor said the state will actively defend the company’s investment in the proposed mine at the edge of Bristol Bay from “interference” and “frivolous and scurrilous attacks.”
    The legislators’ Sept. 9 letter to Wheaton Corp. CEO Randy Smallwood said, “Opposition to this project is both local and statewide, and is not frivolous, slanderous or interference. As individual Alaskans, our opposition to this project arises from the potentially severe social, economic, and cultural risks that the Pebble Mine represents.”
    The five state senators and 15 members of the state House who signed the letter included the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, Lyman Hoffman and Tom Begich, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon.
    “Alaskans will vigorously defend their existing cultural and economic interests, and assuming that permitting will be pro forma carries substantial risk,” the letter said. “As Alaskans, we refuse to jeopardize an existing, sustainable resource for the sake of an economically dubious project.”
     Citing the importance of the existing resources near the proposed mine site, the letter said, “Bristol Bay’s world-class commercial fishery has existed for over 135 years and provides 4,200 jobs in the region and more than $1.2 billion in annual economic output nationally. Fish are inextricably woven into the cultural and economic fabric of the Bristol Bay region. This resource has been developed in a sustainable, responsible manner, and could continue to provide economic benefit to the people of the region for centuries to come.
     “We cannot say the same about the Pebble Mine. In contrast to sustainable fisheries, the economic benefit of mineral extraction is relatively short term.”
     The letter concluded:
    “Wheaton Precious Metals Corporation has the right to invest its money as it sees fit. Previous investors in the venture have fled the Pebble Project due to the difficulty of turning a profit and the unrelenting public opposition. Should Wheaton choose to invest in this project we doubt that these underlying conditions will change.”   

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