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EPA should not pre-empt permitting process

Posted: April 23, 2012 - 8:44am

During my tenure as chairman of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, one of the most important lessons I learned is that transparency matters in public affairs. People want to be informed about issues that affect them, and they deserve the opportunity to weigh in on those issues. That's the public process.

At the same time, project developers deserve the opportunity to perform the research, present the findings to the public and follow the steps required by federal, state and local regulators. That's the permitting process.

Recently, a group of folks from the Pebble Partnership held public meetings in Soldotna and Homer. They arranged for environmental consultants to present information and answer questions about the research that has gone into the proposed project.  A team of 100 independent scientists and researchers recently completed an enormous Environmental Baseline Document, containing findings that represent one of the most extensive environmental research programs ever undertaken for a resource project in Alaska.

I commend the Pebble Partnership for going above and beyond the normal public process to ensure the people on the Kenai Peninsula have a chance to get their questions answered and also to meet these scientists face to face, discuss their concerns and get their professional opinions.

With any project, it is crucial to understand the science in order to determine if it's a viable and responsible project. The Pebble Partnership understands this and is doing everything in their power to present the science in an understandable, transparent format. They are showing good faith.

We should show them the same good faith. The Pebble project deserves the chance to present their mine plan and navigate the permitting process. Opponents of the project are trying to stop this process by convincing the EPA to use its 404c veto authority. The 404c authority is an emergency power that the EPA has used just 13 times in the past 40 years, and never on a project in the pre-permitting phase, such as Pebble.

The EPA will have the opportunity to perform a full evaluation of the proposed project as part of the NEPA permitting process. The permit application will trigger permitting authority reviews, including environmental impact assessments addressing the same issues the EPA is considering in its premature review. Exercising 404c in a premature situation such as this would set a dangerous precedent that presents investment risks to all future development projects in the state, with potentially disastrous economic results.

The bottom line is, the people of the region -- and all Alaskans for that matter -- deserve to be informed about Pebble, and the Pebble Partnership deserves to go through the established permitting channels. This is how the public process works.  And this is the only way to truly evaluate if Pebble can be a responsible project Alaskans can be proud of.

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Allen 04/25/12 - 10:43 am
Sounds Good But Not The Whole Story

While I appreciate the efforts of oil industry company owner Katherine Thomas to educate us, her points are based on the fallacy that there is some kind of fair, comprehensive, non-political permitting process for mines of the Pebble type, when there isn't.

I don't pretend to know the whole story either, but I do know that the Pebble project is planned to be the largest open pit gold and copper mine North American, in a country and a state with extremely lax mining royalty and permitting laws. It's likely that all or most of the minerals will be exported, leaving nothing for Alaskans or Americans.

To me, the Pebble project warrants a very careful look and go slow approach by federal and state governments before the permitting process begins. Laws and regulations may need to be changed for massive projects of this type. The citizens may decide they don't want this type of project in their state under the current (flawed) regulatory systems. We don't have to put up with every single development project, no matter what the cost. Because once the permitting process has started, it's a speeding train that won't be stopped.

cbeard 04/26/12 - 10:24 am

Congratulations for the valiant effort trying to form an intelligent opinion based on process but ignoring the actual problem.

The Pebble Partnership has tried to go around the "normal avenues" of regulations openly, and has even bragged about it.

I see nothing wrong with any agency putting the screws to such a potentially devastating quagmire that only serves to keep a few local-yokels employed for what's essentially a couple of months.

Bravo Ms. Thomas, you sound important!

spwright 04/26/12 - 05:24 pm
Who are You Going to Believe ?

4/26/12 I have Listened to both sides of this Pebble Mine issue & to be Honest, I Don't Know WHO to Believe ?

The "Fish Huggers' constantly state Not in My Back Yard & they have a Wall Street Millionaire paying for Their Side of the Issue.
I question the Past History of the Pebble Mine Corporation & their Safety Record with Previous Mine operations.

But I will never accept the word of anyone that makes their Living on Wall Street, they have already Proven they can't be Trusted.

So I have decided to Wait until the Permitting Process is completed to make a decision on this Pebble Mine issue.

Oh Yeah, now rant & rave about How Right Your Side Is & How Wrong Everyone else is w/ this issue.
I'm from Missouri "SHOW ME"

SPW "Airborne"

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