In her comments to the Alaska Federation of Natives’ annual convention, Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski reiterated her opposition to the controversial Pebble Mine project and said she plans on pursuing “longer-term protections” for the Bristol Bay region.
The comments come as a series of secretly recorded conversations with Pebble Mine executives has renewed public attention about the project, pushing Alaska’s elected leaders to finally voice clear statements of support or opposition to the mine. Murkowski and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, who’s in a tight race for reelection this year, have issued clear opposition to the mine while Gov. Mike Dunleavy and U.S. Rep. Don Young have maintained loose support for it.
Murkowski made no reference to the tapes during her address today.
“I’ve been clear throughout that I oppose the project. I recognize the need for economic development in Southwest Alaska—I think we all do—but I simply think this is the wrong mine in the wrong place,” she said. “The administration has said that Pebble cannot be permitted as proposed, and I agree with that and I plan to build on my appropriations language from last year to ensure the Bristol Bay region remains protected. But while we may have stopped Pebble today, I think now is the time to start thinking about the future.”
On the tapes, now-former Pebble CEO Tom Collier said Murkowski’s opposition to the mine has largely been lip service and have, as of yet, not amounted to any real opposition to the project. Murkowski pledged that would change today.
“We need longer-term protections for the region that can also provide enduring value for Alaskans and I’m planning on working that in this next Congress,” she said.
Murkowski offered no additional details on what such Congressional protection would entail. Earlier this year, she included language in a spending bill that rebuked the federal process saying that the review “likely underestimates its potential risks and impacts.”
“Adverse impacts to Alaska’s world-class salmon fishery and to the ecosystem of Bristol Bay, Alaska, are unacceptable,” she said at the time.