Pebble executive says politicians won’t be held to campaign promises in new ‘Pebble Tapes’

In two recently released 'Pebble Tapes,' a top executive talked about Pebble's political...
In two recently released 'Pebble Tapes,' a top executive talked about Pebble's political connections.(EIA)
Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 2:37 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Two new “Pebble Tapes” published by the Environmental Investigation Agency Thursday show a top executive for the Pebble Partnership saying he doesn’t believe politicians will be held to their campaign promises about Pebble Mine.

Ronald Thiessen, the CEO of Pebble parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals, is the subject of both of the latest tapes from the Washington, D.C. based nonprofit environmental group.

“We are in what I like to call the silly season, which is the final stages of a presidential election. And everything, people have something to say about comments, but it’s the kind of season that, once it’s over, everybody forgets what everybody promised to do. You aren’t held to your promises,” Thiessen said in a recording posted to the EIA’s website.

Pebble Mine is a hot topic in the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Dan Sullivan and Dr. Al Gross. In the first Pebble Tapes, then-CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership Tom Collier said Alaska’s senators were “just kind of sitting over in a corner and being quiet” about the project. Sullivan has since denied the characterization and stated he opposes the mine.

“People tend to know each other, and we have quite a few contacts into the Murkowski operation and quite a few contacts into the Sullivan operation,” Thiessen said in the latest tapes.

Sullivan’s opponent, independent candidate and the Democratic nominee, Gross has called Sullivan out for the characterizations made in the tapes in political ads and at the Debate for the State. Gross is against Pebble Mine.

“As the executive himself states, it doesn’t matter what Dan Sullivan says,” Gross said in a prepared statement Thursday. “Sullivan plans to break his promise, opposing the mine as soon as the election is over.”

In response to the newest tapes, Sullivan campaign spokesperson Matt Shuckerow said, “Senator Sullivan has been clear - No Pebble Mine. Any suggestion otherwise is a blatant mischaracterization of the truth.”

Murkowski has previously stated Pebble is the “wrong mine in the wrong place.”

Danielle Grabiel with the EIA said the tapes are being released in batches and that the most recent recordings were posted “out of concern that the decision on the Pebble permit Record of Decision is imminent.”

Collier resigned following the release of the first tapes, but Grabiel said Thiessen should be held accountable for his comments in the tapes too.

“Our investigators spoke at length with Ron Thiessen, much longer and in far greater detail than Tom Collier, yet Tom resigned apparently due to his comments on the tapes. Ron said so many of the same types of things as Tom. Pebble is a dangerous project being pushed by a group of companies that Thiessen commands,” Grabiel said in a statement.

In the recordings from September, Thiessen said Pebble leadership was preparing for the presidential election by running ads on Fox News that advocated for politics to be left out of the permitting process for Pebble Mine. President Donald Trump later tweeted, “Don’t worry, wonderful & beautiful Alaska, there will be NO POLITICS in the Pebble Mine Review Process."

“A person in the commercial was saying exactly that, so Donald tweeted the exact quote out of the commercial that was the Pebble commercial ... He actually did use our exact words. I didn’t write the tweet for him,” Thiessen said.

Pebble spokesperson Mike Heatwole said the company is focused on completing the federal permitting process for the project and will not issue additional comments about the tapes.

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