October 2013

28 October 2013

Outreach likely to downsize with loss of PLP partner


PLP CEO John Shively speaks with media after an October panel discussion about the proposed Pebble mine.

Even without Anglo American's financial backing, Pebble Limited Partnership has said that its proposed Pebble mine project will move forward. But without additional backers, the plan's information rollout – once envisioned as multi-pronged stakeholder educational effort – likely will be scaled down. At a recent Alaska Native Professional Association panel in Anchorage, we asked PLP CEO John Shively and PLP spokesman Mike Heatwole about how the company would set outreach priorities in light of the withdrawal.

PLP is currently assessing what activities can continue and what cannot, said Shively. Setting these priorities would not occur until November, after Anglo American transitions out of the partnership, he said. For now, almost all contractors have been sent "stop orders," and asked to report to PLP on progress to date. 

With Anglo American's participation, PLP had reported a budget of about $80 million for 2013. "We do know that there will be considerably less funding than there has been in the past," Shively said. "We will move the project along. There are things we can do to continue to try to educate the public on what kind of project it is. I hope that some point in the near future we will have a description of the project we can take to the public."

A proposed Keystone panel on the mine plan is one part of the outreach that would not occur, Shively said. PLP was still awaiting Keystone's report on the two sessions from October 2012 and May 2013, he said. Keystone confirmed receipt of a temporary "stop order," and said a report was in progress. The nonprofit group was unaware of any final decision having been made about its involvement.

Prior to Anglo American's announcement in September, PLP's Heatwole had told Pebble Watch about some of the company's initial ideas for ensuring that stakeholders would be able to access and understand the mine plan. Following are some of the elements that Heatwole described. At this time, however, it is unclear which, if any, of these communication efforts will remain in place after the transition period at PLP is complete.

PLP Website: Primary means of transmitting information on the project.

Mine plan "light": Staff members had been working on explaining the complicated terminology and concepts of the mine plan in layman's terms, and had considered producing multiple versions of the plan: an in-depth version and a "lighter" version that would provide an overview.

In-region meetings on mine plan: PLP was planning to take the plan to communities and get feedback before permitting.

Yup'ik translators.

As we learn more, Pebble Watch will continue to post updates to help our readers access and understand information about the proposed mine.

Read more

17 October 2013

ANPA meeting provides forum for Pebble questions

anpa1For the first time since news broke that major Pebble investor Anglo American had stepped away from the development project, members of the public had the opportunity last week to hear from Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) CEO John Shively and ask questions about the future of the project.

Shively was one of four panelists who participated in "Pebble: A Conversation Worth Having.” More than 70 people attended the event, hosted by the Alaska Native Professional Association at Alaska Pacific University's Grant Hall Theatre on Wednesday. Additional participants included Bristol Bay Native Corporation Vice President of Land and Regional Operations Tiel Smith, Alaska Miners Association Executive Director Deantha Crockett, and Nunamta Aulukestai Executive Director Kimberly Williams.

Read more

15 October 2013

Five questions about the proposed Pebble mine


Last week the non-profit Alaska Native Professional Association held a panel discussion focused on the proposed Pebble mine. Panelists include:

They answered the following questions, which had been formulated by the ANPA board. Panel moderator was Greg Razo, of Cook Inlet Region, Inc.

Read more

11 October 2013

Oversight hearing focuses on EPA, mining impacts

VanvectorA House Natural Resources subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on what the Republican chairman called "abusive actions" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against mining operations across the country, including its watershed assessment on the proposed Pebble mine in Bristol Bay.

The hearing, titled "EPA vs. American Mining Jobs: The Obama Administration's Regulatory Assault on the Economy," offered the testimony of mining leaders from Alaska and West Virginia, as well as the deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation.

No representatives from the EPA attended; more than 90 percent of EPA employees are furloughed due to the government shutdown.

Much of the hearing focused on issues concerning coal mining in West Virginia and at mines in Alaska other than Pebble.

The hearing began with some dissention from Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who disputed whether the subcommittee had any jurisdiction over the EPA.
Leading the witness testimony was Edmund Fogels, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, who encouraged more state control over permitting and oversight.

Fogels said the impact on the Bristol Bay region of EPA's watershed assessment was "increased uncertainty in the regulatory framework for mining." The state is concerned, he said, that the federal agency is creating "new, ambiguous regulatory steps that exclude the state and duplicate processes already in place by existing state and federal laws."

According to a fact sheet on the EPA website, EPA's Clean Water Act veto authority has been used about a dozen times since 1972, out of more than 60,000 permit actions per year.

The state is not just concerned about one project, Fogels said, but is concerned about federal action causing the potential effective loss of all beneficial use of the area of land included in the Bristol Bay watershed assessment. Such land was promised to the state as part of the Statehood Act land entitlement to help secure an independent economic existence for Alaska and Alaskans.

"This is a serious concern, as the area of the watershed assessment represents almost 10 percent of the state of Alaska's land holdings," he said.
Fogels also noted the EPA assessment is based on hypothetical mining activity, rather than an official mine plan. The Pebble Limited Partnership has not yet released an official mine plan.

"If this mine plan did not comply with state mitigation and environmental protection laws, or did not receive appropriate federal permits under the CWA (Clean Water Act), it would not be able to go forward," he said. "All of these decisions would be made based on specific proposals, rather than speculation and conjecture."

Norman Van Vactor (pictured), the CEO and president of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, closed the witness testimony. Van Vactor noted the importance of the Bristol Bay's salmon fishery and the role the EPA has played to help protect the region.

He told the committee that an unprecedented grouping of tribes, regional and village corporations, as well as subsistence, commercial and sports fishermen, bonded to request EPA's involvement regarding Pebble. They did this because they didn't think the state would take such action.

He told the committee that EPA's watershed assessment has added knowledge and value to the discussion concerning the proposed mine and Bristol Bay, adding that this information is vital to our community and future activities proposed for the Bristol Bay watershed.

"The pure, pristine, and abundant water of Bristol Bay supports a salmon fishery that is the very foundation of Bristol Bay, unique in the world, and which is a national treasure," he said. "The people of Bristol Bay know we live in one of the most incredible places on earth. And that fishery is threatened to its core by the proposed Pebble mine."

Find a link to the video and the written statements on the Natural Resources Committee website.

Read more

News roundup: Oct. 11

This week's news focuses mainly on employee layoffs at the Pebble Partnership.

Pebble employees let go after backer withdraws (Bristol Bay Times)

Anglo American's decision begins to have a ripple effect, as detailed in this story from Bristol Bay Times.

Read the story.


Without its monied partner, Pebble is cutting staff and ending contracts (Anchorage Daily News)

A similar story from the Anchorage Daily News.

Read the story.



Read more

09 October 2013

Panel discussion on the Pebble project

The Alaska Native Professional Association (ANPA) has organized a panel discussion, "The Pebble Project: A Conversation Worth Having," to be held Oct. 9 in Grant Hall at Alaska Pacific University. Panelists will include representatives from:

  • Alaska Miners Association
  • Bristol Bay Native Corporation
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Pebble Limited Partnership
  • Alaska Peninsula Corporation

Doors open at 11 a.m., with the discussion running from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Limited tickets are available ($20 for ANPA members and $25 for non-members). 

More details/RSVP.

Read more

04 October 2013

Intersection of Western science and Native knowledge

In a recent Native America Calling episode, host Tara Gatewood led a discussion about whether scientists can successfully combine traditional knowledge and Western scientific values. This is a topic of interest to Pebble Watch readers, as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) has a role in the scientific studies of Bristol Bay. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) included traditional knowledge in its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment and the Pebble Limited Partnership dedicated a chapter in its Environmental Baseline Document to "Subsistence and Traditional Knowledge."

Combining the two approaches can be difficult, as Gatewood's guests and callers point out on Native America Calling. In the context of Bristol Bay and studies conducted there, the EPA clearly states that there is a role for traditional knowledge: "Scientists recognize the value of working with people who live in an area and who have great insight into the natural processes at work in that area. While the scientific perspective is often different from the traditional perspective, both have a great deal to offer one another. Working together is the best way of helping us achieve a better common understanding of nature."

Listen to the Native America Calling episode.

Read the PLP Environmental Baseline Document: Subsistence and Traditional Knowledge

Read the EPA Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Characterization of the Indigenous Cultures of the Nushagak and Kvichak Watersheds


Read more