Walker made the right decision in Bristol Bay



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Walker made the right decision in Bristol Bay

New conditions on Pebble permit are a step in the right direction

Last week, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a new Miscellaneous Land Use Permit (MLUP) to the Pebble Limited Partnership, thereby allowing the company to continue using its worksite in Bristol Bay. What’s different about this permit, however, is that for the first time since the Pebble Mine was proposed over a decade ago DNR conditioned the permit on a set of modest, yet critically important, stipulations. DNR reached this decision after reviewing over a thousand comments sent in by Alaskans, a scientific report released by the Center for Science and Public Participation documenting ongoing issues with Pebble’s reclamation work, and numerous public safety hazards present at the site. Prior to 2017, DNR had largely issued MLUP’s to Pebble with little or no examination of the work being done on site. Now, hearing the voices of Alaskans, DNR has taken the unprecedented step of researching and applying conditions on the way Pebble does its work at the exploration site.

The most significant stipulation on Pebble’s permit is a $2 million performance guaranty. Essentially, money paid upfront by Pebble to the state in order to ensure that one way or another, the required reclamation work gets done. Think of as a security deposit paid to a landlord when you rent an apartment. The insurance levied on the operation was calculated as the potential cost of restoring the permit area if the mining company doesn’t uphold its requirements of the permit. Such financial commitments are critical as all Alaskans should be concerned about the cleanup bill Pebble could leave behind should the company continue to suffer financial difficulties. We in Bristol Bay are thankful for the state stepping up to protect the public interest by requiring Pebble itself to do more reclamation work and to back up those commitments with the proper financial assurances.

Another important condition of the permit is the requirement for Pebble to complete proper reclamation of specific drill sites and begin assessing many more. Pebble’s troubled history of exploratory drilling in Bristol Bay now will have closer oversight—something the people of Bristol Bay have sought for years. Another productive new standard of this permit is it is limited to one-year: Pebble must meet the specified requirements within 2017 to be considered for further MLUP’s in the future.

We are encouraged that more robust monitoring and accountability are now the standard in this new permit. While the Company attempted to disregard this new conditioned permit as “business as usual,” it’s clear to anyone who reads the new MLUP that it is anything but. This permit is a response, loud and clear, to the concerned citizens of Alaska after seeing the mess Pebble has created and disregarded over the last decade. These permit stipulations are responsive measures to an unproductive and unreliable exploration effort. No amount of Pebble’s spin can hide the facts. The Company, through its own bad behavior, has created the necessity for these permit stipulations in its decade of exploration in our region. Alaskans have continually demanded accountability from the Pebble Partnership, and now our state government is too.

• Robert Heyano is the president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay and the Ekuk Tribal President. He is a resident of Dillingham. Alexandar Tallakpallek is the vice-president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay and the Levelock Tribal President. He is a resident of Levelock. United Tribes of Bristol Bay is a tribal consortium working to protect the Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Alutiiq way of life in Bristol Bay.