Brinkley Urges Obama to Stop Pebble Mine
Presidential historian and author Douglas Brinkley urged President Obama to take decisive and swift executive action on preventing the massive Pebble Mine project in Alaska on NOW with Alex Wagner, Monday.
Brinkley noted that many decisive presidential actions could be taken immediately as the Obama Whitehouse seeks to establish a legacy as the President’s second term marches on with Republicans in Congress showing no signs of letting up on blocking legislation. Historically, President Obama has issued fewer executive orders than any President since Grover Cleveland, and has been comparatively reluctant to exert Presidential authority.
Brinkley was clear in his suggestion to the President as he urged him to get out of his “milquetoast” phase and become a fighter.
“Just do it. If you want to use executive power, be like Teddy Roosevelt and FDR. Don’t talk about, “I have the the power of the pen,” use the power of the pen. One could laundry list 200-300 things that could be done overnight. You could save Bristol Bay – our great salmon runs up in Alaska by not allowing the Pebble mine to come in. That’s just one example – boom, a paragraph – do it. And if people sue you, or want to go to court, so be it. Teddy Roosevelt saved the Grand Canyon – it bounced around courts for a few years, and he ended up winning it. But you can’t tell people you’re going to use the executive power and then not use it.”
Brinkley’s comments mirror the urgings of conservation groups, Native tribes and corporations, and sport fishing and hunting organizations in Alaska and across the nation. One signature from the President, invoking a provision in section 404(c) of The Clean Water Act would stop the mine in its tracks.
Section 404(c) authorizes EPA to prohibit, restrict, or deny the discharge of dredged or fill material at defined sites in waters of the United States (including wetlands) whenever it determines, after notice and opportunity for public hearing, that use of such sites for disposal would have an unacceptable adverse impact on one or more of various resources, including fisheries, wildlife, municipal water supplies, or recreational areas.
The 404(c) provision has been invoked 11 times by the EPA since 1972, and would take a huge step toward preserving the multi-billion dollar fishery which employs 14,000 people, provides half of the world’s wild red salmon, and sustains a true Native salmon culture that has existed for thousands of years in the region.
The President is not being urged to act in isolation of popular support. A successful campaign by Alaskan groups and impassioned individuals from Bristol Bay and across the state has spread to the Lower 48. The unique jewel that is Bristol Bay; and the horrifying implications of the hemisphere’s largest open pit gold and copper mine at its headwaters, requiring an earthen dam as tall as the Space Needle to hold back a lake of toxic sludge forever in an active earthquake zone; have created a grassroots movement which is powerful in scope and passion.
Last Thursday, a group met in Anchorage to celebrate the advances of mine prevention to date, which are not insignificant.
The EPA has just completed an exhaustive study of the area, and came to the decisive conclusion that even if the mine operates as planned, with no accidents or slip-ups, the mine would pose “significant risk” to salmon and the fishery. Most of Alaska agrees it is not a gamble worth taking. Upon the completion and release of the study, at least one of Alaska’s 3-person congressional delegation has spoken out against the mine. Democratic Senator Mark Begich called it the “wrong mine” in the “wrong place.” Outspoken opposition to the mine is not a dangerous political position in the state, as polling consistently shows between 60 and 70% of Alaskans (including locals in the Bristol Bay area) opposed to the mine.
Recently, the mine’s largest stakeholder, giant multinational mining conglomerate Anglo-American, saw the writing on the wall and pulled out of the project. In light of these developments, the mood at the event was celebratory, but the crowd was urged not to relax their efforts. Organizers reminded the audience that the next big step in preserving the Bay forever is pressuring the Obama administration to take executive action. One signature from the President will effectively prevent the mine – at least for the near future.
Click HERE to add your voice and urge President Obama to make good, and use the power of the pen to save our last great wild salmon run.
And enjoy this film by Ryan Peterson. Give it a little time to load, and you will be rewarded.