Coalition of 66 Conservative Groups Support Pebble Mine Permitting

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Posted by Mike Palicz on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020, 1:20 PM PERMALINK

Today, Americans for Tax Reform joined a coalition of 66 conservative organizations urging President Trump to reject political meddling in the Pebble Mine permitting decision and to allow the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue the necessary permits for the project to move forward. 

Alaska's proposed Pebble Mine Project, one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits, is approaching the final stage of its permitting process. After clearing its final environmental review from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July, the project is anticipated to receive a final Record of Decision from the Trump Administration in the coming weeks.

Pebble Mine has long been the poster-child of critical projects delayed by a broken permitting process. House Democrats have renewed efforts to obstruct Pebble’s permitting process by blocking funding for the Army Corps to issue permitting while the Obama Administration went as far as rendering a preemptive veto to prevent the mine from even receiving a proper environmental review. Last year, the Trump Administration righted this wrong by withdrawing Obama’s preemptive veto, allowing the project to move through the standard review process.

In a letter addressed to President Trump, the signing organizations “applaud the progress made so far on [The President’s] broad regulatory reform agenda and strongly support [his] continuing efforts to remove obstacles to environmental permitting of natural resource and infrastructure projects."

However, the letter’s signers warn that they are “disturbed by reports of White House meddling in the permitting process for the Pebble Mine in Alaska. It recalls the bad old days when the Obama administration misused its Clean Water Act authority and used bogus science to veto the project before an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had even been submitted.”

President Trump recently reassured Americans that politics would be removed from the Pebble Mine decision by tweeting, “Don’t worry, wonderful & beautiful Alaska, there will be NO POLITICS in the Pebble Mine Review Process. I will do what is right for Alaska and our great Country!!!”

Americans for Tax Reform applauds President Trump for promising to keep politics out of the permitting decision and for enacting real reforms to fix a broken permitting process. ATR urges President Trump to fulfill his promise by allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue the necessary permits for the project to move forward.

The letter is below:

September 23, 2020

Dear President Trump,

In a speech on July 16 before an enthusiastic audience on the South Lawn, you proudly marked the progress that your administration has made in its "historic campaign to rescue American workers from job-killing regulations." Conservatives applaud the progress made so far on your broad regulatory reform agenda and strongly support your continuing efforts to remove obstacles to environmental permitting of natural resource and infrastructure projects.

That is why many of us were disturbed by reports of White House meddling in the permitting process for the Pebble Mine in Alaska. It recalls the bad old days when the Obama administration misused its Clean Water Act authority and used bogus science to veto the project before an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had even been submitted.

Political interference in the EIS process was inappropriate then, and it is inappropriate now. In preparing its EIS, the company developing the Pebble Mine spent over $150 million on scientific studies considering every possible environmental impact of building and operating the mine. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers then conducted the EIS process in a professional and thorough way as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. After this exhaustive review lasting more than a year, the Corps issued its final EIS in July, which concluded that the mine would not negatively impact the environment and in particular would not harm Bristol Bay's extensive salmon fisheries.

Before the Corps made its final record of decision, old claims were again raised that the mine would threaten the salmon and destroy hunting and fishing opportunities for wealthy sportsmen. Regardless of the source of these claims -- whether from White House insiders, campaign donors, media personalities, or environmental pressure groups -- it is critical to consider that these claims were fully considered by the Army Corps in the EIS process and dismissed on the basis of overwhelming scientific evidence.

Nonetheless, and apparently because of political intervention, the Corps has since required further environmental mitigation before issuing its record of decision. While the company prepares to submit its mitigation plan, we urge you to order that the regulatory process now move forward in strict accordance with the law and without further delays based on groundless claims.

There are at least three important reasons why derailing the permitting process for the Pebble Mine would be disastrous. First, killing the first major project to be permitted since your July speech would undermine the credibility of your deregulatory efforts. In particular, it would discourage the mining industry, which is at a low ebb in the United States as the result of decades of regulatory suffocation, from making other multi-billion dollar investments to take advantage of America's vast mineral potential.

Second, the mine is vital to the economic future for the people living in the Bristol Bay watershed (an area the size of Ohio) and for the State of Alaska. It is located in a remote area where there are few jobs for native villagers and where endemic poverty has fostered serious social dislocations.The recent collapse in oil prices is a painful reminder that Alaska's economy is overly dependent on oil production and must diversify if it is to flourish in the future.

Third, the mine's economic benefits go far beyond the jobs in Alaska. The Pebble ore body contains colossal quantities of copper, gold, and molybdenum, as well other strategic minerals such as rare earths. The mine will provide minerals that are critical to high-tech industries in America and the world. It will also create tens of billions of dollars of economic activity across the country. In this regard, reports that China opposes the mine, presumably because it would lessen U.S. dependence on China for strategic minerals, comes as no surprise.

The Pebble Mine, although a mere pinprick on the vast Alaska landscape, would create enormous wealth and provide immense economic benefits to America. We urge you to prohibit any further political meddling and let the Corps proceed to issue the permits necessary for this important project to move forward. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

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