Murkowski submits report language: a step in the right direction for holding Pebble accountable

After issuing a harsh warning to the Army Corps of Engineers at a Bristol Bay salmon event last week, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski followed up by introducing report language in to the Senate Appropriations committee yesterday morning that called on the Corps to make significant changes to Pebble’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. 

Her report language specifically directed the Army Corps of Engineers to address the concerns identified by other agencies like EPA and the Department of the Interior that called the DEIS “so inadequate that it precludes meaningful analysis.” The report language directs Army Corps to include more robust scientific analysis, and take comments from stakeholders, especially Alaska Natives, into account. On behalf of the committee, Senator Murkowski also requested that the Army Corps work with other agencies to address all the concerns they wrote in their comments given their expertise in areas that would be impacted by the proposed mine. Read the full report language here (page 91).  

In a significant move by Senator Murkowski to uphold a more robust and fair permit review process, stakeholders from various organizations responded to her actions. Read their statements here.  

Last week at a Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon celebration in Washington, D.C., Senator Murkowski issued her sternest warning yet to the Army Corps stating, “I believe that, again, you have a process in place, but I want to make sure that the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA look very critically at those gaps, those deficiencies, and work to address them. If they are unable to address them, then a permit should not be issued.” 

Murkowski’s report language followed other statements from the celebration. She also said, “I will use my seat on the [Senate] Appropriations Committee to make sure that the EPA and the Corps hear clearly that they must address these.”  

While report language is not legally binding, in the past, agencies have consistently responded and addressed issues mentioned in report- we expect them to do the same here. Introducing report language is a significant step by Senator Murkowski in using her political position to uphold robust processes that are required by the Clean Water Act.  

For years, Senator Murkowski has not outwardly supported or opposed the Pebble project, but has stood strong in her belief that Pebble, like every development project, deserves to be fairly evaluated and to go through the permit review process. Introducing report language indicates that Senator Murkowski is hearing what fishermen, tribes, Alaskans and concerned Americans have been saying: the Army Corps is fast tracking and rushing a permit review process that lacks science, objectivity and fairness.  

Alaskans, please call and write Senator Murkowski (202-224-6665) and say thank you for stepping up, and that you are still opposed to Pebble. Friends in the lower-48, please call YOUR Senators and remind them that Bristol Bay and Pebble is an issue of national importance.  

We look forward to seeing our elected leaders continue to hold Pebble and the Army Corps of Engineers accountable, an important component of ensuring that all the risks of Pebble are accounted for. Our position hasn’t changed- we are still vehemently opposed to any mine of any size in Bristol Bay. But once the science and process is upheld, it will be clear that Pebble is incompatible with the fish, people and economies of southwestern Alaska, as well as the laws that protect them.