UTBB director testifies on Pebble permitting process before Congress

Oct 24, 2019

During the hearing in Washington, D.C., supporters and opponents of the proposed mine testified before the House Subcomittee on Water Resources and Environment.

Screen grab from the hearing before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure regarding the proposed Pebble Mine.

The proposed Pebble Mine was the subject on a congressional hearing Wednesday before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. Tom Collier, CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, defended the company's permit application and process. Opponents voiced concerns about the project, especially regarding shortcomings in federal permitting process.

Read more about the congressional hearing on Pebble from Alaska Public Media's Liz Ruskin

Alannah Hurley, the executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, spoke before the subcommittee. During her testimony, she pointed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ failure to meet with tribes on a government-to-government basis.

“We have extended countless invitations to the Corps to visit our communities, see and witness our way of life, and to engage in open dialogue about these issues that are most important to our people, yet the Corps continues to be unresponsive to these requests,” she said.

When asked about tribal consultation, Hurley said the Army Corps had not included tribal perspectives in its draft environmental review in a meaningful way. She also criticized the project’s timeline, saying it was not realistic for residents of Bristol Bay.

David Hobbie, chief of Alaska District’s Regulatory Division, said the Army Corps had met with various tribes in the region over 30 times.

“I think there has been scheduling conflicts at times," he said. "And I do know that we have – when I say limited resources, we have and will continue to try to get to the villages when we can, but it is not cheap to get to the villages, as it is not cheap for them to get here either. So at times, I know resources may have a constraining role, I don’t know if that’s occurred yet, though.”

Hobbie, who did not watch the congressional hearing, also said the Army Corps would continue to take tribal input into consideration. 

The congressional hearing on Pebble comes about a month after Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the mine should not be permitted unless the Army Corps addresses shortcomings in the draft environmental review, and the Environmental Protection Agency's critiques of it, in the final impact statement. 

Contact the author at isabelle@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200