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June 24, 2017

EPA to Review Proposed Pebble Mine Project. Thanks, Feds! (we think…)

“We don’t need no stinkin’ feds telling us what to do!”

Ah, the mantra of the 49th state. It’s true that there are many great points to support local governance. Communities themselves are often the best at determining what the needs of their residents are – especially in areas that don’t fit the “norm” of the country. In towns with no indoor plumbing, fuel at more than $10 a gallon, and communities where schools can be hundreds of miles apart, it’s understandable that Alaskans find it difficult sometimes to “go with the flow” and let those bureaucrats in DC legislate what we do on the tundra from an office in a white marble building thousands of miles away. It’s frustrating to feel misunderstood, and have to live with laws designed for someone else.

But then there are times when our “little town” called Alaska simply can’t do what needs to be done. We hate to admit it, but it’s true.  I remember the first time I saw a “Thanks FBI” bumpersticker – blue with the Big Dipper of Alaska’s state flag. What would make us frontier-minded, libertarian, get off my lawn Alaskans actually thank a federal agency?  I’ll tell you what. Our lawmakers proved that all it took was a couple thousand dollars and a few nice meals to sell us out. The self-described “Corrupt Bastards Club” was our most recent  lesson on why sometimes… (looks around to make sure nobody sees me, and whispers)… “the feds” can be good guys.

Our own internal state ethics watchdog mechanisms were no match for systemic corruption, funded by big oil. And as a result of eventual investigations by that federal agency known as the FBI, 10% of our legislature was indicted for various bribery and corruption charges. Several landed in jail. In the absence of a professional major league team, watching our elected representatives fall like bowling pins became a statewide sport. There was something about watching those  who violated the public trust, get their comeuppance that felt gratifying – hence, the bumperstickers, and the embarrassing reminder that if we actually want to get along without federal intervention, we’re going to need to carry out certain uncomfortable tasks ourselves.

We’re in another one of those situations again. This time, the three-letter federal agency that those who are corrupted by big money influence find themselves facing is the EPA.   The oil companies, and mining interests rear their heads in opposition to most things environmental. Let’s face it – it’s just plain inconvenient when you want to extract offshore with little regulation and you have to deal with annoyances like polar bears, and floating ice, and endangered whales, and having the ability to clean up and pay for your messes. It’s a pain in the neck when you want to dig up a bunch of coal, or copper and it’s located underneath a fishery. The thorn in the side of those extraction industries who fund elections and get Alaskan candidates in office, is the agency that dares to tell them they can’t do whatever they want.

So, naturally, when those who do care about the environment, and the mess that could be left behind (think Exxon Valdez and Gulf of Mexico only with lots of ice) see the David v. Goliath battles of elected leaders v. extraction, they get a little nervous. Our battle tends to work out a little different than the Biblical one. Goliath tells David that if he lets him do whatever he wants, he’ll make sure David gets re-elected and not replaced by Pete, who will do it if David doesn’t.  And then Pete v. Goliath ends up being an even worse deal for the people because Pete is an even bigger sell-out. A grim scenario.

So naturally, when an entity comes in who is actually allowed to tell Goliath what to do, our little ears perk up and our hearts are filled for a moment with a strange sensation we’re not used to feeling – hope! And that brings us to today.

Heard over the horizon are those booming footsteps you hear in cartoon fairy tales to indicate the approach of a giant. My coffee is making little spontaneous tremulous ripples. The dog awakens and turns her head to the side with ears cocked. It’s…. it’s…. the Environmental Protection Agency! And they’ve come to look at the proposed Pebble Mine project.  And this is a good thing.

The EPA said it is launching the review in response to petitions last year from several Southwest Alaska tribes, commercial fishing groups and other organizations opposed to Pebble. Those groups are worried about the potential impact of large-scale mining on Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon runs.

The EPA, however, did not give the petitioners what they had requested. The agency declined to formally consider blocking mining waste disposal in waterways downstream of the Pebble deposit. The agency said it might — or might not — consider taking that step in the future.

The EPA has the authority to do this, but generally, this happens only after the company in question files a permit. That will not happen in the case of Pebble until this year or next. And generally speaking, applying for a permit in this state means you get it. So, our little episode of happy hopefulness gets instantly tempered with cautious optimism and worry.

We wait now, for the science. There will be two kinds of science – the EPA science, and the science paid for by the Pebble Project. Any wagers how that’s going to turn out? Soon, it will be the war of scientists with one side saying it’s perfectly safe to put the largest copper and gold mine on the continent at the headwaters of the largest salmon run on the continent. They’ve got all sorts of safety mechanisms, and plans, and an earthen dam that you’ll be able to see from space to contain all the toxic byproducts of mining and keep them from affecting the delicate life cycle of the salmon and other marine creatures in the Bay that make up 60% of the nation’s seafood. What could go wrong?

And the other side, we presume, will have a different story. We just have to wait and find out what it is, and hope that it isn’t influenced by outside forces.

But, the bottom line is this – We can get no guarantee from anyone that this project will not affect salmon. Nobody can absolutely say for certain that a disaster could never happen. And that, right there, is too much risk. When the thing you risk is the most precious thing you own, you’re allowed to be cautious. So, prepare for the next year which will include opportunities to make public comment on the mine.

Meanwhile, our elected leaders find themselves continually wedged between the monied powers that can get them re-elected or have them facing a well-funded opponent, and the will of the people who actually cast the votes. They  have a variety of opinions on the subject but most are tip-toeing through the demilitarized zone, hoping for the best. They won’t have to stick their flag in the ground and take a position until later.

Oh… except for Don Young. Alaska’s lone congressman is right out there on the front lines proposing legislation that would strip the EPA of their veto power to enforce the Clean Water Act. He did this earlier in the year in response to oil drilling activities in Conoco Phillips alpine fields, but it would also keep the feds out of things like Pebble Mine as well – not to mention countless projects nationwide to which the EPA would no longer have veto authority to stop water contamination. “Enough is enough,” sayeth the Congressman for All Alaska. You may send thank you letters to his office in DC.

Steve Borell, executive director of the Alaska Miners Association, said the EPA’s decision not to invoke its veto authority at this time is “good news.”

“They haven’t shut off (Pebble), so I think the science will speak for itself,” he said.

Which science remains to be seen.

So, yes. It’s good that the EPA will be studying this project. But, keep in mind that when the FBI came in and nabbed a bunch of legislators in the Corrupt Bastards Club, they got little fish like Vic Kohring, Bev Masek, and Pete Kott… They did not get Frank Murkowski, Don Young, Ted Stevens or his son Ben Stevens. It may still happen, but the mysterious nets of the federal government seem to catch the little fish while letting the big ones swim through.

So, will the EPA let the biggest fish of them all swim through the net? Will Pebble Mine and its trillion dollars worth of mineral wealth somehow escape our grasp and endanger Bristol Bay, and therefore a good portion of the nation’s seafood supply? Stay tuned and stay informed no matter where you are, because this issue affects people far beyond the borders of Alaska.

Comments

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Comments
53 Responses to “EPA to Review Proposed Pebble Mine Project. Thanks, Feds! (we think…)”
  1. kiksadi50 says:

    I wonder how much the consortium involved in the Pebble Mine is promising to contribute to pet interests of murkowski & young?Still,better them doing the colluding than joe miller & sara palin.As someone whose sole income has been from commercial fishing for over 40 yrs.,I am quite distressed about the Pebble Mine situation & fear for not only bristol bay but the impact of the mine’s run off on a presently pristeen wild fish habitat.There must be a secret room somewhere that people like Young & McConnelI sit & think up sound bites like “the EPA is anti-resource development” meant to whip the “drill baby drill” zanies into a frothing fury.We finally got rid of murkowski & stevens.will young never go away?What the hell does Begich have to say about this?

  2. Polarbear says:

    There are some really excellent postings here, especially from Simple Mind, who follows the money. If we want a truly effective strategy for opposing mega-mining projects like Pebble, then we have a responsibility to state an alternative approach. It is no longer enough to simply be nay-sayers. Otherwise, we end up being just like the Republican Party on the health care issue. We need to represent viable economic development solutions, not just opposition. If we stay with our American cultural roots, the best in us is all about getting things done the right way.

    Alaska has huge mineralization belts. What would mineral development look like if it was done correctly? Don’t sweat the details – just sketch it in. What would it look like? In fact, narrow it down some more. What would the first acceptable development look like? Just the first one?

    At risk of being burned at the stake, here is what it might look like. It would be small. We need a project of manageable size, controlled risk, with attainable investment. The owner and the State of Alaska need to swap some degree of public investment in exchange for local hire. It would be Alaska-owned, possibly as small as a family corporation-owned operation wanting to improve production. There needs to be a clear alignment between local ownership and local community interest. There needs to be secondary and tertiary refinement of the ore in Alaska. No more shipping unprocessed ore off to somewhere else for their distant economic benefit. Last, and possibly most important to me, the ore extraction and initial processing need to be 100% unambiguously self-contained. The University of Alaska School of Mines probably needs to be involved. We need to reinvent the actual process of ore extraction to meet our requirement for development of public resources. There is going to be surface disruption, else it cannot be mining. So, we need an economic, self-contained, small extaction process which nearly simultaneously remediates as it disrupts and extracts. Lay it on the School of Mines – that’s what they are there for. The outcome will not look anything like the predictable mega-disaster projects we have now. Call it micro-mining, or whatever. I would rather have one hundred small, containable, controlled and safe operations at work in our mineralization belt than one single Pebble disaster-that-we-can-see-coming. Overall, I will bet that the real economic benefit of one hundred of these small and safe mining operations would be greater than the real economic benefit to Alaska of an outside-owned mega project like Pebble.

    Now I am certain that I do not have all the details lined up correctly, especially in investment and the boots-on-the-ground facts of economic and profitable production. But I am confident that if we support a public conversation of integrity and civility, like this blog, the best part of us all could get there.

    Anyway, I just wanted to express again that we serve our community better if we at least try to express what we want for economic development, instead of solely being in opposition. And please make no mistake, I am absolutely opposed to Pebble.

    • Simple Mind says:

      I don’t disagree with anything you say. We are seen the Anglo American (aka “Pebble Partnership) project a hundred times, sometimes in Europe and North American, but most often in the poor, developing nations of Asia, South America and Africa. A foreign-based mega-corporation come in with promises of jobs, jobs, jobs. An enormous project with enormous profits (for the corporation) and enormous environmental and social impacts. However, jobs coincide only with profitable extraction – the removal of a mountaintop, the fouling of a watershed, is forever. At some point, the economics no longer make sense for the then-investors in the corporation. Why should they pour money into a pit just because their grandparents made money from it? At some point, they walk away. They might pay a fine, but its still way cheaper than fixing the mess. The corporate shell gets shut down, the offices close, they move on to the next project. The poor people stay. I agree with Polar Bear. Mineral extraction is vital to how we live. It is not so much what we do as how we do it. We need to recognize and provide for the true costs, both present and future, before we break ground.

      • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

        Simple Mind –

        True costs.

        That is really the whole issue in a nutshell. The thermodynamic fact is that the true cost of doing anything is always greater than the value of the result. Our global society – governments, people, etc. is living a vast ponzi scheme. The sad reality is there is no alternative, unless we manage somehow to alter our behavior which is unlikely. But we should ask ourselves, do we really partake of this grand game called free market capitalism, or are we, the vast seething unwashed horde, not just grist for the mill of the infinitesmally small minority who in their plentitude are so deluded that they think the destruction of our ecosystem is not a problem?

        As a geologist I would only point out that in the history of life on earth there have been more than 20 events which resulted in the extinction of a significant percentage of all living species. We are are the rising side of one of those types of events. In the past there was no sentience capable of foreseeing, let alone altering the course of events. We alone amond the myriad life forms that have evolved on this tiny speck of rock have obtained the insight, knowledge, data, to perhaps guide our own futures. What we appear not to have obtained, is the wisdom to do so.

      • Polarbear says:

        I concur. And thanks again for your earlier comments on tracking the profits. We do not need that kind of economic fast food.

    • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

      Polar Bear – Howdy, we meet again. Glad of it I might, your comment is thought provoking and that is a good thing. I am more or less completely in agreement with your first two paragraphs and no, I will not be the one to put fire to you for suggesting the nature of our quandary. When you suggest small though you run up against a little thing called history.

      I don’t at all mean to sound condescending or to try to talk over you but for the sake of brevity I am going to be throwing out some concepts and terms you may not be familiar with, as you know I will happily respond to any questions. The way that history interferes with a small-scale mining concept such as you suggest is in terms of two major factors in any mining enterprise, the cut off grade (COG) and the cost to produce (COP). The latter determines the former. Factoring in all the steps in the process (which is certainly non-trivial) from discovery to mine closure and every cost incurred along the way, versus the total amount of ore determines the COP. With the copper price what it is now and given the circumstances of Pebble, the COG is probably in the range of .75% to 1% Cu. Other factors come into play but what that tells us is that for every tonne of ore produced the mine will yield about 10 kg of copper. Calculating backwards and not allowing for profits or any of the other unknown and variable risks involved that means simply that for the entire life of the mine you have to be able to produce every tonne of ore for less than $100 per tonne. And that is why the history matters, all the copper deposits with grades of say 2% or 3% copper have long since been mined out. To mine anything you are likely to discover these days requires economies of scale and the scale in this case is billions of tonnes.

      So it isn’t going to be possible to obtain the commodities we need for civilization by resorting to smaller scale distributed methods, it just won’t work. That brings up another point you made that I wish to address but not just to be pedantic, rather to try to enlighten you and everyone else reading here to what the tradeoffs are. You mentioned local refining. I could argue in favor of it but that would be just reinforcing what might actually be a bad idea. So I will argue against it, although I know from experience that it is favorable to the mining operation if it is feasible. I am not making any pretense that I have a complete argument here either, I am just hitting the high spots. To refine copper ores takes a substantial infrastructure because the copper is locked up largely in sulfide minerals. Those minerals occur in rocks of fairly complex composition so you need a process that breaks all that down to the point where you can apply efficient separation processes to it. That means ore comes in to the plant, gets crushed, pulverized to a fine powder and is then sent to a foam flotation process where the light weight slag is skimmed off and the heavy copper bearing bits are collected and shipped into yet another process where they are dissolved in concentrated acids and then the metal is extracted usually by some form of electrolosis. Taken all together you have
      millions of tonnes of acids involved and you consume copious amounts of electricity to produce fairly pure copper ingots which in their own volume certainly cannot be carried out of the mine in a brief case. (see earlier comment on kimberlites). Pebble is in a fairly remote wilderness, there is no existing infrastructure to speak of. So which is the better trade off? Building all the infrastructure to set up a refining operation on site, or building all the infrastructure to concentrate and purify the ore to a point where it can be cost effectively moved to a shipping point and then to a refinery?

      Judging from what little I know if the Pebble plan they more or less intend to do what you seem to favor which is refine the ore on site to fairly high purity, but that will still require substantial infrastructure, not just roads, but railroads and will also involve the shipment of or manufacture of the extremely toxic chemicals, and the vast quantities of electricity that the process requires. Perhaps the worst possible solution would be some half-way combination of both.

      You can be sure that the regardless of anything else including but not limited to risks, the thing Anglo and its partner are concerned with is what is cheapest. Their motive is profit.

      So in my humble view, the only way to assure responsible exploitation of any commodity of scale, whether it be copper or lumber or soybeans, is impose regulations and enforce them and that means in the final analysis that whatever it is that is being produced is going to cost more.

      Are we willing to pay the cost to have environmentally responsible development? I would answer a resounding yes with one severe and almost religiously taboo caveat, that being that we should NOT have to pay for extravagent profit that enriches a tiny minority. Yes that is asking for a sea change, not unlike the demolishing of the concept of the divine right of kings. Yes that is socialism, the absurd and devilish idea that one human’s life long labor should be worth more than 0.25% of another human’s life long luxury.

      The way the system works now is fairly clear and simple though it is grossly unjust. The Pebble mine will go forward, be developed, its flawed plans implemented, with any luck at all they will last for the brief life of the mine, no more than 35 to 50 years, and then 60, or 80 or 100 years hence the consequences of the huge profits “earned” by all the short cuts and stupid choices taken will begin to surface. The Salmon will vanish, the starving world, the tens of billions of hungry humans will have one thing less to eat. The destitute and desperate will pick among the ruins of the flotation plants stealing scrap metal, or sift the toxic tails for flecks of gold to sell to black market dealers for an ounce of soy portein – it is an ugly vision. It is probably a pretty good guess.

      • Polarbear says:

        Thank you for your thoughtful comments. My focus is on mining methods which use many, many smaller operations and use contained extraction methods over a substantially longer time frame, all interconnected with improved local secondary and tertiary processes to bring the minerals to market. Such an approach does not seek to violate the laws of thermodynamics, only to accomplish improved efficiency of energy, a lower cost of production by increasing the ratio of wind, hydro, and solar energy use over a much longer period of extraction, and improved local economics by more intelligent organization of the all the processes leading to useful products from the minerals.

        For a time in our history, the floating gold dredge, like the ones used in Nyac, Candle, Fox, and Nome, represented the best thinking of the early 20th century on driving both COP and COG down to enable a profitable operation. As you point out, for those companies, then, for the state of technology, then, for the energetics, then, for market demand, then, and for the systems of investment and profitability, then, the dredges reached their limit and died.

        Today, we have a much better understanding of mineralization and extraction, of wind, solar, and hydro power, of economics, and of environmental impacts and amelioration, and of complex systems. Now is not the time to pronounce a new approach dead based upon the internals of historical approaches. Now is the time to imagine what we would do, right now, without regard to historical boundaries, if we could build an entirely new system of production. By analogy, we need the kind of thinking that produced the small and enduring and hugely useful Mars Rovers, not the Apollo Project. Hopeful practical thinking, not wishful thinking.

        In our American history, we created a system of higher education which we very much needed at the time, called “land grant colleges.” Those schools had a huge and beneficial impact on agriculture in the USA. The UAF system was a late beneficiary of the land grant college approach. I think we should call upon the this fundamental purpose of the UA system, and look for a very, very different approach to mineral extraction in Alaska. After all, we have a huge mineralization belt, a desire for minimal environmental impact, a desire for truly long-term economic development, and the public funds for the applied research. We do not need a Pebble disaster as a motivator.

        • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

          Polarbear,

          Thanks for coming back to this thread. Before I say anything else let me say that I sympathise with your ideas, or opinions, however you wish them to be characterized and I will freely admit that in special circumstances the concepts you promote can be made to work. I could in fact claim to have carried out more than one experiment along lines similar to what you describe in your first paragraph that were modestly succesful. But I would have to follow that up with statements of fact such that the minerals involved were very different in nature, the economies involved were very different in nature and ultimately the experiments failed due largely to the effects of other methods in other places yielding the same kind of product at lower costs and higher profits.

          You somewhat conflated my comments to simple mind regarding the second law with the nature of mining cost effectiveness and profits but I will excuse that. Small scale distributed approaches aren’t in any sense in contravention of the 2nd law. However, that does not mean they are profitable. And that is the real crux here because in our society and economy, you simply cannot sustain any activity that involves constant input of money (regardless of its form) unless you can also make a profit. We can discuss profit in a different context perhaps, maybe in an open thread down stream. But the reality at Pebble is simply this, there is no way such a low grade deposit can be developed by small scale methods. To even begin to mine the area will require hundreds of millions of investment.

          You are quite correct that now we have a much better understanding of the mineralization and the methods needed to extract the commodity of interest. However, you seem to assume that all that new knowledge just makes it that much easier to achieve the desired result and unfortunately that is not true. What it does is identify subjects worthy of more research, and in rare cases produce ideas that allow us to push the COG to lower levels. If you disbelieve me, just look at the historic trends in ore deposits of almost any type, including oil. The reality is we have plenty of technology, almost 40 years ago we had the technology to produce tertiary oil from depleted reservoirs all over the US. But the problem was absolutely clear, it cost $70 per barrel to produce and oil was selling for about $30 per barrel. Today you can be sure that many
          of the technologies long known are in play on old reservoirs to pump more oil but you can also be sure that the profit margin has narrowed to significantly less than $30 per barrel. And make note, there are very few, almost no, small scale producers who are still in business.

          I’d like for you to tell me a bit more about yourself and your background if you don’t mind because it would give me a better sense of how to respond to you. I am a verteran exploration geologist, I have spent my whole life in this business except for a bit of fun after college. Like all business my business involves a lot of people who are both dishonest and not very well equipped. Sad to say but generally true. I can’t really prove my status excet to claim that #1 I am not rich and #2 after more than 30 years of work I still don’t understand the earth’s geology. I don’t think anybody else does either nor do I think you could find anyone who would claim to, except those few scam artists who assert that garbage like intelligent design is science.

          This is what I want to make clear to you, your intention is right, your heart is in the right place, but pursuing aims that are unachievable will not help the situation we are in. I know from personal experience that it is gratifying and significant to be able to use a smarter approach to do something.. But in this case, mining is much too highly evolved for any re-envisioning of the scale of practise to take place. It works as it is presently designed and built. It may not in fact be the most efficient of methods, but in comparative terms to what else is known, it is.

          In my opinion, what we need to confront is the fact that such operations and undertakings are in reality, no where near as profitable as they are claimed to be. The reason is a huge subsequent cost is externalized.

          Until the population of human beings begins to decline, the problems we discuss here will be both urgent and intractable. Until we, as a sepcies recognize our responsibility to ourselves, and every other species that coexists with us, we cannot expect that our situation will improve. The simple fact is we may not be able to solve our problems, that is an unknown. All we can do is try. On the other hand, sitting back and expecting some kind of miraculous salvation from a fairly obvious case of systemic collapse strikes me as delusional.

          We only have one world. Alaska is a part of it to be sure but only a small part.

  3. Anglo American also owns 45% of DeBeers. Just hope like hell there are no Kimberlite pipes near Pebble. Or anywhere else in Southwest Alaska, for that matter. Otherwise it will be a simple cash transaction…and I mean TRUNKSFULL of the green stuff, and Anglo will not only own the Legislature and Administration, they’ll buy all of us off, too. It’ll be over before anyone has a chance to shout.
    Diamonds ARE forever…
    Mark Springer
    Bethel

    • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

      Mark,

      I can virtually guarantee you there are no kimberlites anywhere near the Pebble site. Wrong kind of geologic environment. Moreover, kimberlites are tiny by comparison to something on the scale of Pebble. The largest kimberlite mine in the world (Mwadui, Tanzania) is less than .5 km in diameter and most are considerably smaller than that.

      Generally speaking kimberlites are a fairly environmentally neutral type of mining operation, they don’t require huge volumes of process water. The production can be highly refined on site and carried out in a brief case. They don’t require vast amounts of chemicals and their tailings, though they weather very rapidly pose little if any environmental risk because they are so volumetrically small they can be easily and effectively contained.

      Diamonds of course have little intrinsic value. The sole reason for their high prices is the elaborate marketing organization known as the CSO based in London and its domination of the world market. There is a hidden but very significant benefit though of mining kimberlites. They provide a window into the deep earth’s composition that we would otherwise know nothing about directly. This is because diamonds can only be formed naturally at very high pressures corresponding to depths within the earth of between about 150 and 450 km. Yes you read that right. Since the diamonds themselves are just mineral constituents of their source rocks and relatively rare in them, we obtain by the process of mining diamonds large amounts of these very deep seated source rocks which have tremendous scientific value. Admittedly the sampling we thus obtain is still just a thin veneer of the 4,000 km radius of the earth but it is vastly deeper than anything we could obtain with our current state of technology.

      So one could argue with some justification that the existence of the diamond industry has a direct benefit in the form of important and highly useful scientific knowledge that we otherwise could not obtain.

  4. Zyxomma says:

    Not a week goes by that I’m not signing on to petitions (and personalizing the boilerplate) to protect our environment. And make no mistake, this is a tiny planet with a huge human population. Everything that happens, happens to all of us. I don’t eat salmon, and haven’t in decades, along with all flesh, milk products, and eggs. They’re not part of my diet, and never will be. I eat organic vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and (a few) grains, and nothing else. But, as a citizen of the planet, food issues are crucial to me. Food prices are skyrocketing everywhere. It’s one of the reasons for the rebellion in Egypt. If mining “interests” are allowed to destroy the most productive salmon runs on the planet, all of us will suffer. Here in NYC, we may not suffer to the same degree as Native Alaskans who lose their livelihoods (or their lives) to this shortsighted madness, but we’ll suffer nonetheless. And every acre of wild land, every species of wildlife “developed” into extinction, is blood on all our hands. If you think this issue does not matter, think again. Think long and hard.

    After you’ve thought it over, go to http://www.ran.org (Rainforest Action Network), http://www.oceana.org, http://www.foe.org (Friends of the Earth), http://www.earthjustice.org, http://www.ilovemountains.org, http://www.alaskawild.org, http://www.audobon.org, http://www.greenpeace.org, http://www.nodirtygold.org, http://www.ucs.org (Union of Concerned Scientists) and all the other fine environmental organizations working tirelessly to save what’s left of the natural world for future generations to enjoy. Sign up for action alerts. Yes, there will be more email in your inbox, and they’ll all solicit donations whether or not you can afford to give. However, donations are not required. Sign the petitions, and personalize them when you have time to do so. Do it for your children. Do it for your neighbors. Do it for Brian and Brenda, and their beautiful children.

    Extractive industries (mining, timber, commercial fishing, oil and gas) and their deep pockets have held sway in Alaska for far too long. With such a small population in such a huge geographic area (and many of the residents are temporary — only there for the score, and then back to Texas or Louisiana or Kansas to enjoy the spoils), change is difficult. But it’s not impossible. Do your part. Write to your elected representatives, and tell them clean water, clean air, viable soil, and wide open vistas are more important than corporate profits.

    I have no children, nieces, or nephews. I don’t care because it’s fashionable or in my own self interest. I care because I have a mind and a heart. Health and peace. Tikkun olam shalom.

  5. michigander says:

    More than I planned on reading but thank you – hoping for the best outcome and you explained it so well. It’s a reminder to send wake up prayer calls to my family again.

    This matters to me/us/all/America/Earth

    I started writing the countries, changed to continents, once I got to thinking planets I figured I should quit deleting misspellings. But I meant everybody!

    Keep on petitioning against this (o:

  6. All I Saw says:

    The Obama Administration is on to them.

    Governor/Port Director Sheffield’s rail extension project was also put on hold after the EPA announced their Nenana River crossing was “under review”. All those planned rail extensions would have made a nice loop around the state from Anchorage to Fairbanks through Glenallen… perfect for shuttling all that newly mined coal around for everyone to breath/ingest.

    The Alaska Railroad is a subsidy for Usibelli coal mine. I’m still pissed that train depot at the airport is inaccessible by Alaskans Who Don’t Buy Cruise Ship Tickets.

    I wanna see the leftover Corrupt Bastards frog-walked on the 5 o’clock news. It probably won’t go down like that, but a girl can dream :)

  7. Simple Mind says:

    So – who’s going to make the money from Pebble? If you look at their TV commercials or the Pebble Partnership’s website, you see pictures of smiling Native Alaskans in hard hats. But who is the Pebble Partnership? Its not a bunch of smiling Native Americans. Its not even John Shively and that bubble-headed spokeswoman who is on their commercials. Pebble is a joint venture of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and Anglo American? So who is Northern Dynasty and Anglo American? Northern Dynasty is a Canadian company. They share an address with Hunter Dickinson. Northern Dynasty’s Executive Chairman, CEO/President, Senior VP of Corporate Development, Secretary and Chief Financial Officer are all executives at Hunter Dickinson. Basically, Northern Dynasty is just a fake name for Hunter Dickinson. Who is Hunter Dickinson? Its a private Canadian firm that develops mines. Back to Anglo American PLC? They are one of the largest intercontinental mining companies in the world. They are a British company, founded in South Africa. (Gee, now who was that other gigantic British natural resources corporation with the eco-friendly corporate logo? You know, something about the Gulf of Mexico?) Back to Pebble – how does this work? Well, Northern Dynasty / Hunter Dickinson owns the Pebble claims, and Anglo American is putting up all the money. Who wants to bet that once the mine is up and running, HD fades out and Anglo American becomes our neighbor. Hmmmm….Anglo American PLC just doesn’t have that warm, fuzzy feeling that is given off by the name “Pebble Partnership”. So, on one hand, you have two foreign companies. On the other, you have a world-class, sustainable fishery that supports hundreds, if not thousands, of Alaskans. Now if you believe that these foreign companies are going to stay here decades and decades after the minerals are gone and their investors who are no longer receiving any return will continue to spend their money to vigilantly maintain that gigantic reservoir full of toxic waste for the next hundred years, then I suppose Pebble has something to talk to you about. If, on the other hand, you think the foreign principals and investors in Hunter Dickinson and Anglo American will finish extraction of profitable minerals and then collapse their corporate shells and leave the local Alaskans holding the bag, then maybe you ought to get behind the EPA and the people fighting to save the Bay.

  8. NEO says:

    akm, great article.

  9. M Baker says:

    Having spent a good part of my career working for corporations attempting to convince some of them what they need to do to get themselves into compliance with state and federal regulation, can tell you exactly what will happen. First, the EPA will not conduct any study on their own. They will tell the companies consultants what needs to be done. Don’t worry about this if you think the consultants will fudge data in favor of the company paying for their services. the EPA scientist will carefully examine the data from the consultants and if the see any consistancy in the data they will ask the consultants to do it again. The consultants in all cases that I’m aware of, will be carefull to be accurate and honest, or they will no longer be able to find any work involving the EPA. Seeing how evironmental consultants usually only do environmental consulting, they don’t want to risk their reputation, business, or even be severely fined or jailed for slanting data. In their final report, the consultants will list all their sources of information and all of their sample results. When samples are taken, they must follow strick procedures on how the samples were taken and who had control of them between the time the sample was taken until it reaches the lab.shipped to the lab with a listing of who had control of the samples before they reached the lab. Usually their will be split samples where an identical sample will be kept in case there is any question ablout the sample results. The split sample can also be sent to another lab if they think the lab may have not have follow correct lab procedures or were careless. Often a split sample will be sent to two labs to check on the accuracy of the lab who is performing the analysis. Once all the studies and sample results are collected and analyized, the consultants will write their final report and will give the results to the company and to the EPA. It’s very rarely that you ever hear of a consultant slanting the results and if they do, it can usually be detected.

    • ks sunflower says:

      What I worry about is how independent the EPA will be considering how much pressure is coming from the GOP/Tea Party to put the agency down. I can see a scenario where there is a temptation to soften the blow to Big Mining to stretch out its own existence. Of course, it would be foolish to do so because the anti-EPA folks are not going to change their minds.

      • M Baker says:

        It always seemed to me as long as a Democrat was in the White House, the EPA did their best. When Republicans were in office they always tied down the EPA preventing them from doing much enforcement of the laws, at least that is the way it feels because you hear less from the EPA . I suspect with Obama we will hear and see more from the EPA, at least I hope so. What was very disappointing to me was the Republicans being able to take over the House this fall. A Democrat controlled Congress and White House could have gotten a lot accomplished for the environment.

  10. Blooper says:

    Hopefully the unbiased science (i.e. not paid for by Pebble) will be the dominant factor in the EPA’s decision making. I highly doubt Pebble would pay for a scientific evaluation with the chance that it may come back unfavorable towards the mine. Surely Pebble will look far and wide for a ‘scientific’ firm that would somehow skew the results in their favor.

    That’s what the cynic in thinks, anyways.

    • slipstream says:

      Yeah, Pebble has been running ads: scientists (hired by Pebble) have been studying the area for years, they know everything possible about the plants, wildlife, etc. But when EPA announces it will do a study, Pebble says “oh no, it’s too soon for a study.” Translation: Pebble doesn’t want a study it can’t control.

      Pebble-paid “science” is about as reliable as the tobacco industry paid “science” that showed cigarettes couldn’t possibly have any connection to lung cancer,.

    • They don’t need scientific evidence on their side and won’t even make a pretense of getting any. they will ask voters and politicians if they want money and that will be the trump card they will play. So many Americans can’t seem to grasp the idea that fewer people have a disproportionate share of the dinero. They fall for the lie that Obie wants to redistribute wealth from the top down.Rethugs are masters of the propaganda war and Karl Rove and his crew will be on the frontlines leading the lies.Fighting the good fight is not enough,the good guys-ordinary Alaskans-have to win this for all time.

  11. RvrRat says:

    America is not a Democracy, it’s an auction!

  12. ks sunflower says:

    I forgot to thank you, AKM, for bringing issues such as this to the table. Keeping us current on changes to this issue is so critical Thank you!

  13. AK Raven says:

    Alaska does not want the feds telling us what to do—- But they will accept the superfund money to patch up the mess after the fact. They will whine and complain about how they need the money to protect the people at that point.

  14. Firecracker says:

    Corporate America has bought and paid for the government and now the government will do it’s bidding. I believe that both sides are guilty of this to some extent but the Republicans are far more blatant and “more” guilty if that makes any sense. I feel so frustrated that people can’t see that the Tea Party is really just the Koch brothers and a few other rich and powerful neocons and is NOT a grassroots movement. I don’t know how to take the country back from the corporations and it scares me.

    The income inequality is reaching epic proportions in this country and is starting to resemble third world countries. The banks and hedge funds are back to doing what they were doing before the crisis and now are bigger than ever because Paulson and Bush did put any strings on their bailouts. The idea of ‘free markets’ is ridiculous and not even supported by the vast majority of economists. Anyone who has taken a basic economics class is taught the idea of perfect competition but that is not what we face in this country and is very different from the idea of free markets. We have huge concentrations of power (closer to the models of oligopolies and in some cases monopolies).

    The ideas of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman are really zombie ideas that keep getting the support of the Republican party instead of dying a long cold painful death. The free market will not save the ordinary citizen or the environment. I have always considered the short term thinking of corporations to be so very nearsighted. The economy and all of your profits lie inside the environment and if you degrade the environment then you will eventually degrade your profits but since they have to make their quarterly profits for Wall Street they push everything else to the back of their minds.

    Ok, I will end my rant. I am just so very frustrated with the system.

    • ks sunflower says:

      Well said, Firecracker. I think you make good points as to why politicians such as Don Young need to be held accountable for the damage they are doing to their fellow citizens and the very land upon which we depend for our lives and livelihoods. The Age of the Corporation is upon us, indeed.

      We do need representatives in our government who can resist the seductive call of the monied interests. Will we get them? Will we support them? I don’t know. I hope so.

    • Riverwoman says:

      It is possible to initiate change. Not by standing outside Koch Industries headquarters and throwing rocks at the fence. Every dollar you spend is an affirmation of somebody’s business practices. Where you invest your money is important. If you have your life savings in Bank of America, you can stop complaining right now. If you have your life savings in a local credit union, you have voted with your dollars.

      If you shop for groceries at a natural food coop, you spend more on your food, but you reject the industrial food model. If you buy your groceries at Walmart, you need to look at what those dollars ultimately finance.

      It is easy to feel powerless, until you realize that you spend, probably, between 20 and 40 thousand dollars a year on goods and services, and you can decide what kind of business practices to support. Each purchase and each payment should be a deliberate and willful act of care and nurturing for the planet.

      If you are buying into the need to have the latest electronic gadget, or a flat screen TV, or newest cell phone, you are driving the mining industry to produce more, cheaper metals and minerals for those gadgets. If you insist on getting a burger off the dollar menu, you are driving the meat industry to produce high quantity, low quality products with questionable safety standards.

      I know I am preaching to the choir here, but let go of the helplessness. We have the power to make change. We can make the world better every time we get out a dollar and spend it.

    • jojobo1 says:

      Have to agree wholeheartedly with ya on this one.

  15. ks sunflower says:

    OT, but great news – Olbermann is coming back! I hope everyone who enjoyed him can access Current TV.

    http://current.com/keith-olbermann/

    • michigander says:

      Is this true??!! If so I am beyond excited! He would stand up for banning Pebble Mine too. So many things need changing. Thanks ks sunflower.

      There is probably a new post up while I’ve been reading the others (o:

  16. Rethugs are trying the end run around all regs by trying to dissolve the EPA and have wished this for many years.Once this project gets started,you can almost guarantee a natural disaster because by then the EPA will have been stripped of its authority to do anything. Congressional Rethugs are still trying to clamp down on a woman’s right to choose. I have asked how many jobs will that legislation create for Americans and can’t get an answer. The powers that be will say environmentalists are standing in the way of progress,theirs, and that will pretty much be that. Please prove me wrong.

    • fishingmamma says:

      Mike, We can’t prove you wrong because you are right.

      This is what I call a crisis of memory. People in their 30’s cannot remember when the environment was so bad that lakes were on fire and fish died, when industry was free to dump contaminants directly into fresh water lakes and streams. That is why the EPA was brought into existance.

      The first thing I learned while studying American Legal History is that the law is responsive – meaning all of the laws and regulations that are on the books now are a response to a wrongdoing. We have an EPA because we do not want industry to pollute our world, and they will without regulations telling them not to and without an agency watching for infractions. We have already proven that.

      Going backwards should not be an option.

      • ks sunflower says:

        Amen to everything you said, fishingmama!

      • Firecracker says:

        Very good points. If there is not regulation and enforcement of that regulation then then businesses use the environment as a ‘free’ input in the form of dumping grounds for their waste. This produces externalities (in economic jargon) or third party effects in the form of pollution that society has to then pay to clean up or in the form of increased health risks, etc. Unfortunately, our memories are short, too short for our own good.

        • michigander says:

          It is simple common sense. Whatever happenned to that? Are our fellow American’s that foolish as to harm their/our own livelihood….?

          Yikes )o:

      • jojobo1 says:

        Your right .I know my 35 year old daughter can’t believe we used to swim in a river that ran thru our nearest city.It is being cleaned up but when a river runs thru other states it is very hard to keep it clean.She looks at the river and says no way. For the most part ya can’t even eat the fish if ya do catch them from the river.She tipped over in a canoe and I had to hide I was laughing so hard at the look on her face as she sunk in the muck.

  17. ks sunflower says:

    P.S. Please protest S. 228.

  18. ks sunflower says:

    I repeat an oft stated question, “Why do people still vote Republican when they are voting against their own best interests?”

    Next time we see an EPA agent or official, heck, even a secretary for the agency, we should give that person a hug. Those that work for the EPA seem to be an endangered species in their own right given how the GOP is closing its jagged claw around the throat of the one agency whose mission it is to see that we can breath cleaner air, drink cleaner water, and not worry about our children dying from diseases arising from pollution in the very ground we walk upon. WTF, does the GOP think it’s doing?

    I know – getting big paydays for their re-election war chests or under-the-table pay-offs. I used to try to cling to the belief that, well, the GOP folks who hated things like the EPA were just being true to a different paradigm of governance – a misguided one, but reasonable people are entitled to differ.

    However, over the years, I’ve reached the only conclusion that the situation points to – the GOP is working for a no-hold-barred corporate mentality. The rich get richer no matter what they have to do. Sure “little people” own stock in big corporations, but they don’t make the killing on profits or make the decisions.

    You state Don Young trying to stop the EPA’s ability to enforce the Clean Water Act. He is not alone in the attempt to kill the heart and soul of the EPA.

    Let me share what one of our senators is up to in this regard – this time going after the EPA’s ability to enforce the Clean Air Act.

    This week I joined Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and eight of my other Senate colleagues in introducing the Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act (S. 228). The legislation aims to stop Washington bureaucrats, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), from regulating greenhouse gases for the purpose of addressing climate change. With limited exceptions, S. 228 pre-empts existing and prohibits future federal restrictions on greenhouse gases, when related to climate change, in the absence of explicit Congressional authorization. This includes mandatory requirements that may stem not only from applications of the Clean Air Act, but also the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. The bill also precludes legal action against sources of greenhouse gasses solely based on their possible contribution to climate change.

    Here is the shameful slop that our newly elected Senator Moran (aka Moron) is doing for his part in killing the EPA.

    “This week I [Jerry Moran] joined Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and eight of my other Senate colleagues in introducing the Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act (S. 228). The legislation aims to stop Washington bureaucrats, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), from regulating greenhouse gases for the purpose of addressing climate change. With limited exceptions, S. 228 pre-empts existing and prohibits future federal restrictions on greenhouse gases, when related to climate change, in the absence of explicit Congressional authorization. This includes mandatory requirements that may stem not only from applications of the Clean Air Act, but also the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. The bill also precludes legal action against sources of greenhouse gasses solely based on their possible contribution to climate change.
    “The last thing Americans need is a national energy tax that would kill more jobs. The Clean Air Act was never intended to regulate greenhouse gases, and the EPA must be stopped from making decisions that circumvent Congress. We should do everything we can to create jobs and grow our economy – that includes stopping unelected bureaucrats from raising energy costs and using regulatory red tape to raise taxes and increase government intrusion into the lives of Americans.”

    May all the forces of the universe unite to give these people some brains, please! Moran sent this out in an email to all Kansans subscribing to his newsletter.

    Isn’t this the same old poop that the Bush-Cheney administration tried to sell? You know, it’s the environment versus jobs as if there were no alternatives?

    Do these people have no imaginations? Can they not envision a broader view, a more comprehensive understanding of how to create jobs.

    This you-know-what about environmental protection just being another way to tax the American public is, in my opinion, just you-know-what. I am soooo tired of the GOP and its lies.

    I know I sound very simple-minded when I say this, but here goes anyway – if projects such as the Pebble Mine are so safe, I ask the politicians backing them to move the area affected by those projects for a year or two and bring their own children once the projects get under full swing. Let’s see how they like being sickened by the pollution and seeing their homes devalued.

    Sorry to rant on, but I am hit my limit on the GOP today. I actually was a registered Republican for a while back in the day (just out of college), but lost that fantasy once Reagan came into power and the greed was no longer veiled. Today, well, today, it is just raw greed all slimey and gross.

    • ks sunflower says:

      Shame on me – I repeated Moran’s paragraph that starts “This week I joined . . . .” twice.

      A lesson, young ones – do not write in a fit of anger, and always, always proofread before hitting that submit button.

      Otherwise, dear innocents, you will wind up like ole ks sunflower – having to apologize in public for letting her frustration cloud her ability to write a simply comment. Sigh (hanging head in shame).

    • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

      KS – Your points are all sound though yes you do get a bit over the top because of the frustration.
      It is understandable, but in future, try to keep it in check, you have to remember those who oppose
      your point of view will manipulate, nay, lie about what you say, so be careful what you say and make
      it clear.

      Why do people vote against their own interest? The clearest and simplest answer is that they do not know what their own interest actually is. Because they cannot determine it for themselves they rely upon some other source for guidance.In the simplest possible terms they believe in authorities. They have been trained not to use, or trust their own judgement.

      Respecting the more vital question of why politicians would or could act in a fashion contrary to the general welfare, sadly, they are just individuals. Most of them are undistinguished in any particular sense, they just happened to get elected because they had more money given to them. They weren’t elected because they were good analysts of the many complex problems we are confronted with, they were elected because they could repeat meaningless 15 second talking points.

      The interesting thing though about lies is that eventually, reality imposes itself and they become so obvious and blatant that a slow and very emotional realization ensues. It often leads to anger, one person alone having been fooled and defrauded may not be very aggresive in combating their injury. Millions. however, might pose a problem even to the oligarchs.

  19. RvrRat says:

    I hope Don Young, Lisa M. and a whole lot more republicans don’t get their way with the EPA. It is a shame that out children and grand children… may have poorer quality water to drink and dirtier air to breath. All for the sake of a few dollars to get re-elected.

    • jojobo1 says:

      I have just been reading about the GOP trying to make major cuts to he EPA so they don’t have the manpower to do what needs to be done.

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