As if 2020 can’t get any more bizarre, Donald Trump Jr. today lent his support to those opposing Pebble Mine by retweeting a call for his father to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to block the controversial project.
“As a sportsman who has spent plenty of time in the area I agree 100%,” the president’s son said in a tweet promoting the call from Nick Ayers, the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence. “The headwaters of Bristol Bay and the surrounding fishery are too unique and fragile to take any chances with.”
The tweet from Ayers came earlier in the day, recognizing the mine’s potential harm to the Bristol Bay fishery. Opponents to the mine say that harm was largely overlooked in the final environmental impact statement report produced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers late last month.
“Like millions of conservationists and sportsmen, I am hoping @realDonaldTrump will direct @EPA to block the Pebble mine in Bristol Bay,” Ayers said. “A Canadian company will unnecessarily mine the USA’s greatest fishery at a severe cost. This should be stopped and I believe @POTUS will do so!”
The Trump administration has been busily boosting the mine ahead of the 2020 election, a course that took shape following a 2019 meeting with Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Though Dunleavy has ostensibly taken no official position on the project, behind the scenes he’s reportedly been coached by backers of the mine in order to more effectively lobby the president.
The Trump administration’s efforts included the withdrawal of the EPA’s Obama-era regulation that essentially served as a veto of the project, a move that was put into motion shortly after that meeting between Trump and Dunleavy. A new administration—or Trump, if he favors Jr.’s call over Dunleavy’s backroom dealings—could issue a similar veto.
The House last week approved language in the Department of Defense Authorization Act to bar funding going to support the Pebble Mine permitting on the federal level.
Beyond congressional efforts to halt the mine and the possibility of a renewed EPA veto, the project still needs to be approved by the Alaska Legislature.
Does it matter?
Who really knows?
Trump Jr. is a purveyor of some of the worst conspiracy theory stuff out there, but he’s got a platform that reaches well beyond Alaska. And though Pebble Mine has not entirely left the hands of the federal government, it’s a fair bit closer to reality thanks to the work of the Army Corps.
As climatologist Brian Brettschneider put it on Twitter: “Pro-conservation statements are now coming out AFTER the Corps of Engineers (federal government) recommended proceeding with the project. This is a case of playing both sides. Alaska is more ‘in play’ this year and most Alaskans oppose the project.”
However, United Tribes of Bristol Bay Executive Director Alannah Hurley saw today’s comments as a promising sign of bipartisan opposition to the project.
Today’s remarks by Donald Trump Jr show just how valuable Bristol Bay is to the nation,” she said in a statement. “People on all sides of the political spectrum agree on this basic truth: Bristol Bay is a national treasure that needs to be protected from threats like the Pebble Mine. It’s time for the EPA to veto this project and protect this world class fishery.”