Governor hits back at CNN report showing a close relationship between Pebble and his office

Published: Dec. 19, 2019 at 3:58 PM AKST
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According to documents obtained by CNN, the governor’s office received pages of ghost-written emails and talking points from the Pebble Partnership it could use to push the president, vice president and Environmental Protection Agency to make decisions in its favor.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, speaking by phone from Washington D.C., rejected the characterization that he has put his thumb on the scales to see the proposed Pebble Mine approved.

“I have absolutely no interest in supporting any projects or potential projects based upon the data and the science that would harm Alaska,” the governor said. He described that his priorities are "to protect Alaska, Alaskans, and Alaskan opportunity, in that order."

Instead, Dunleavy said that he has supported moving the scientific process forward to analyze the feasibility of the project, not necessarily the project itself.

Dunleavy has long stated his opposition to the preemptive veto that then-President Obama imposed on the project in 2014. On Thursday, the governor said that was because the preemptive veto stifled a scientific process to look deeper into the controversial proposed mine.

“This isn't saying that the Pebble project is going to happen, what we're talking about is that we have to allow the process through science and data to happen as opposed to politicizing it,” he said.

The CNN report into the governor’s office’s communications with the Pebble Partnership describes a close relationship. Briefings from Pebble appear to have been sent virtually verbatim to federal officials on behalf of the governor before the preemptive veto was withdrawn by President Trump in June.

“I don't think it was put out verbatim, but I will say this, we work with groups, all industries to have conversations,” Dunleavy said. “But in terms of putting things out verbatim that’s not a rule of this administration and I’m not sure that’s a rule of any administration.”

Joel Reynolds from the National Resource Defense Council, an organization suing to have the mine halted, described the governor in the CNN report as essentially working as a lobbyist for Pebble. “In this case, they’re working directly with the governor and his staff to accomplish the goals of the company,” he said.

According to the CNN report, the governor’s office received a draft letter from Pebble celebrating the withdrawal of the preemptive veto before it had been decided by the EPA. Pebble hit back at the idea that it had received advanced notice of the EPA’s decision.

The president and Duleavy met on Air Force One in late June and a short while later the EPA announced a partial withdrawal of the preemptive veto. According to documents obtained by CNN, emails between Pebble officials and the governor’s office planned how to respond.

“This was worse than doing nothing,” an email sent to the governor's office obtained by CNN read of the EPA's decision.

The governor hit back at suggestions that he was part of any deal with the president to have the Pebble Mine approved before a scientific analysis is complete.

“I cannot recall having a conversation with the president that said, ‘We must open Pebble,’” he said. “I'm sure I had a conversation with the president about lifting the preemptive veto so the study process could happen, asking him to consider that.”

Lex Treinen contributed to this report Copyright 2019 KTUU. All rights reserved.