Dunleavy does Pebble Mine a favor, will appeal rejected permit

Alaska Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy meets with President Donald Trump on June 26, 2019. The meeting set in motion a swift shift in course for the federal government on the controversial Pebble Mine project. Later investigations found Dunleavy had worked with Pebble Mine officials to lobby the president. (Official White House Photo by Sheila Craighead)

Programming note: What gosh darn busy day! Column will be coming Saturday.

As if there wasn’t enough going on a Friday afternoon where Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski called for the president’s resignation and where Rep. Lance Pruitt’s odious effort to overturn his election loss was slapped down by the Alaska Supreme Court, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has announced that he will be doing the deeply controversial Pebble Mine a favor and appeal the rejection of its permit.

In a statement slipped out at 3:20 p.m., as the world was digesting Trump’s permanent ban from Twitter and Murkowski’s admission that she questions her future as a Republican, the Dunleavy administration claimed it’s making the appeal for the greater good of Alaska.

“The flawed decision by the Alaska District creates a dangerous precedent that will undoubtedly harm Alaska’s future and, any potential project can fall victim to the same questionable standards. We have to prevent a federal agency, in this instance, the Alaska District of the Army Corps of Engineers, from using the regulatory process to effectively prevent the State from fulfilling a constitutional mandate to develop its natural resources,” the governor said in a prepared statement.

The backers of the Pebble Mine have the option to appeal the ruling but have not chosen to do so yet, one executive told the Anchorage Daily News today.

The permit was ultimately rejected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because the group found the Pebble Mine project had failed to properly mitigate its potential environmental damage to the Bristol Bay watershed and salmon fishery. While the project seemed to initially have the backing of the Trump Administration, political support for the project waned as conservative outdoorsmen like Don Trump Jr. voiced concern about the project.

A key moment that set the Trump administration’s efforts rolling on the project was a 2019 meeting between Trump and Dunleavy during an Air Force One stop in Alaska. A later investigation found Dunleavy actively worked with Pebble backers to effectively lobby the president, through Dunleavy still claims to be neutral on the project despite how increasingly preposterous that claim is.

Now-former Pebble executive Tom Collier bragged about an effort with the purported investigators about efforts to influence the 2020 election in order to elect a more Dunleavy- and Pebble-friendly Legislature, one of the eventual necessities for approving the project.

Alaska’s U.S. Senators Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, who were painted as gutless non-factors by Pebble executives in a series of secretly recorded conversations, have outlined opposition to Pebble Mine with Murkowski going as far as calling for long-lasting protections for the region.

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to oppose the mine.

United Tribes of Bristol Bay Deputy Director Lindsay Layland released a statement saying Dunleavy’s decision runs contrary to the public, showing just who’s side he’s on when it comes to the mine.

“Bristol Bay residents and Alaskans have been clear that we will not trade one of the world’s last robust salmon fisheries for a gold mine, and the Army Corps decision affirmed that this toxic project is too risky for our home and does not serve the public interest,” she said. “It’s outrageous that Gov. Dunleavy and his administration would go against the will of Alaskans to benefit a foreign mining company that has no value to our state, and shows once again how out of touch he is.”

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