Pebble Congressional Hearing Testimony: Rick Halford

Today, former Alaska Senate President Rick Halford testified in front of the Science, Space and Technology Committee concerning a report Pebble commissioned from the Cohen Group. There was a great deal of misinformation spoken during the hearing and we are glad to have someone there to speak the truth.

Mr. Halford's Testimony is as follows:

"Thank you for the opportunity to testify.  I am one of many defending this watershed, including my departed friends, Senator Ted Stevens, former Governor Jay Hammond, and inspirational elders like Bobby Andrew, Ofai Olson, Mary Olympic and Violet Willson.   I am here today humbly in support of the people of Bristol Bay who have been dependent on these resources for untold generations, and in defense of 14,000 jobs and a $1.5B economy supported by Bristol Bay's wild salmon.  

I live in Bristol Bay and Chugiak, and have been a commercial pilot and hunting guide all my adult life.  I spent 24 years in the State legislature, retiring as Senate president in 2003.  In all my years in the legislature, I never ran a campaign without the support of the mining industry, and before Pebble I had never opposed a mine and never expected to.

You've heard today that EPA has been unfair and has made up its mind in advance.  Neither of those things could be further from the truth.  The truth is that while EPA was far from the first choice of the people of Bristol Bay there was simply no other authority with either the jurisdiction or interest to help, including the State of Alaska.  

The truth is that EPA listened to the people of Bristol Bay, and responded by preparing the most objective assessment of potential impacts of a massive sulfide mine in this particular location.  

If there is any unfairness in this discussion, it was introduced by Pebble. For years, they have tried to manufacture consent for their project. 

Pebble’s previous efforts to manufacture public and regulatory consent collapsed under the weight of the facts and public opposition.  Pebble has shown that it is willing to say or do anything to advance this mine.  

By now, opposition has grown in the region to roughly 90% and nearly 60% statewide.

Of the 1.8 M comments received by EPA on Bristol Bay, over 85% were supportive of the agency and its process.

The more people have learned about the mine, the stronger the opposition has grown. This is in part due to Pebble’s numerous false promises made over more than a decade. These are detailed in my written comments.  

Pebble’s contention that the outcome was predetermined is ridiculous.  Bristol Bay advocates couldn’t even agree on what to ask for.  

EPA's action thus far, if finalized, place protection on the resources, and Pebble must show that it can mine and protect those resources. 

Pebble can apply for the permit today, tomorrow, whenever they want.  Pebble has the opportunity to prove its critics wrong. 

They have done no fieldwork for the last two years and they are only waiting for the right political climate.  

The stress and uncertainty of Pebble has been a cloud over Bristol Bay for over a decade. Isn’t this unfair to the people of Bristol Bay? 

The uncertainty of Pebble even makes it difficult for other truly reasonable mining interests to gain financial support in AK. 

Senator Murkowski, over two years ago, recognized this and called on Pebble to finally apply for their permits.  

As a Finance Chairman and Presiding Officer of the AK Senate, I probably signed appropriations to sue the EPA.  I know there are many issues and conflicts, but my experience with the EPA in Bristol Bay has been incredibly positive and has changed my presumptions about a huge, far away bureaucracy.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone at EPA, from top to bottom, the schedulers to the Administrators for their service to the people of Bristol Bay and for changing my mind.

Today the people of Bristol Bay are left with questions and fear about the massive exploration project that has occurred in their headwaters.  

There are over 1,300 drill holes, many not properly closed, thousands of settling ponds with potentially acid generating material, and tons of waste stored on state land with removal costs far higher than its value.  

Pebble should be using it resources to seal their problem wells, assure that there is no acid drainage from their settling ponds, and cleanup their mess.

As the fortunate father of 6 wonderful children, I am reminded that whenever I tell my kids to clean up their mess, their first response is always "but that's not fair" before they go on with their other excuses.

Thank you for your time and consideration and I’m happy to answer any questions."