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Gov. Dunleavy tells legislators that the ‘best available science’ will determine future of Pebble Mine

The Alaska governor also touted the potential benefits of resource development for Southwest Alaska
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a press conference on CARES Act funding.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a press conference on CARES Act funding.(KTUU)
Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 2:31 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy has responded to two legislators who called on him to stop helping the controversial Pebble Mine project, saying that the “best available science” will determine its future.

In his letter, the governor also touts the potential benefits of resource development for Southwest Alaska.

Independent Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham and Republican Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak sent a letter to the governor last week, saying that state land should not be provided for the controversial gold and copper mine in Bristol Bay.

“I cannot accept your argument that I should not, in my role as governor, seek to move viable projects forward for the benefit of economically-depressed regions and our national security, particularly when my only act of “promotion,” both privately and publicly has been to call for a fair federal review and permitting process,” Dunleavy wrote to the lawmakers on Tuesday.

The governor said he isn’t willing to jeopardize the salmon fishery but that economic development for the region is imperative. Dunleavy said resource development had helped in health and education outcomes for the North Slope and the same benefits could be felt in Southwest Alaska.

The governor also pointed to Southwest Alaska being “plagued by the highest suicide rate in the state” as an example of the economic impacts on the region.

“I stand ready and willing to join you in support of resource development projects that provide the year-around jobs and the opportunities needed to ensure the region’s long-term success,” the governor wrote.

The proposed Pebble Mine project has come under renewed scrutiny after environmental groups posing as investors secretly taped the then-CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership Tom Collier speaking candidly about the project.

Collier, who has since resigned as CEO, told “the investors” that he was a close friend with the governor and speaks frequently with the governor’s chief of staff Ben Stevens.

CNN also published a story in December of 2019 that laid out evidence that the governor’s office was being secretly coached to lobby the Trump administration to move forward with the mine.

“The individuals in those videos embellished their relationships with state and federal officials at all levels. Any claims that Governor Dunleavy contacted White House administration officials on behalf of that company are false,” the governor’s office said in a prepared statement about “the Pebble Tapes.”

Collier also said that Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan were ”just kind of sitting over in a corner and being quiet” about the Pebble Mine project. Both senators had publicly questioned whether Pebble Mine met federal permitting requirements and vehemently denied that Collier had any influence over their decision making.

Since the Pebble Tapes were released, Sullivan has come out in strong opposition to the mine. Dr. Al Gross, Sullivan’s opponent for the 2020 election, has long opposed the controversial project.

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