by Lindsey Bloom
Next week, the Pebble Partnership’s hired firm known as Keystone will hold meetings in Anchorage to present Pebble’s selected scientific baseline studies to panels of scientists and those stakeholders who can afford a plane ticket to Anchorage. Neither Pebble nor Keystone will disclose how much Pebble is paying for this “process.” What they’re also not telling you is that the presentation is a superficial PR stunt that continues Pebble's perpetual pattern of hiding information from stakeholders while publicly touting their transparency and willingness to share information, a sentiment that is disingenuous at best.
In the last year, through a high-profile media campaign, Pebble has been pushing its Environmental Baseline Document (EBD). They claim that this document portrays “one of the most extensive environmental studies programs ever conducted for a natural resource project in Alaska.” Pebble’s EBD amounts to thousands of pages of data in locked PDFs that is not replicable by independent scientists and therefore cannot be peer reviewed.
However, a team of independent scientists with a variety of backgrounds and funding sources has read and analyzed the tens of thousands of pages. Below are highlights of their findings and links to their full critiques. In summary, what we see with Pebble’s EBD looks to be another expensive Dog and Pony show put on for the Alaskan public and decision makers as a political and public relations tactic rather than a product of scientific integrity.
1. Assessing reliability of Pebble Limited Partnership’s salmon escapement studies, Dr. Carol Ann Woody
Bottom line: PLP cannot tell us how many total salmon spawn in streams draining the deposit after nine years of study, $120 million dollars, and 27,000+ pages of data.
2. Critique of Pebble Limited Partnership’s seismic hazard assessment, Dr. Bretwood Higman
Bottom line: PLP’s seismic hazard assessment may greatly underestimate the risk of large earthquakes.
3. A review of Pebble Limited Partnership’s Environmental Baseline Documents: Water quality, Dr. Kendra Zamzow
Bottom line: Waters around the Pebble deposit are exceptionally pure and are particularly vulnerable to contamination from mining that could harm fish.
4. A review of Pebble Limited Partnership’s Environmental Baseline Documents: Resident fish and juvenile salmon habitat, distribution and assemblage, Sarah O’Neal
Bottom line: PLP insufficiently characterized resident fish populations important to subsistence, and mischaracterized juvenile salmon populations, making data impossible to use for measuring impacts to fish most vulnerable to effects of mining.
5. A review of Pebble Limited Partnership’s Environmental Baseline Documents: Aquatic macroinvertebrates (Bristol Bay drainages), Sarah O’Neal
Bottom line: PLP incorrectly identified over 10% of important freshwater insect species, which are indicators of water quality; consequently those data cannot be relied upon to measure impacts to streams from mining.
6. Additional reviews are available regarding:
A lifelong Alaskan and second-generation fisherman, Lindsey Bloom has been fishing Bristol Bay since 1997. When the salmon aren’t running, Lindsey works with businesses, fishing associations, and conservation groups on salmon habitat conservation issues. Lindsey is a former at-large board member of United Fishermen of Alaska and current board member of Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association.