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Pebble study outlines impact

June 7th, 2013 | Carey Restino Print this article   Email this article  

A recently released study commissioned by the Pebble Limited Partnership asserts that the mine could support more than 16,000 jobs nationwide, including some 5,000 jobs in Alaska with an average wage above $60,000 per year.

The report, completed by HIS Global also says the mine would boost the coffers of the Lake and Peninsula Borough by between $29 and $33 million annually based on the borough's severance tax structure.

"Pebble is a substantial multi-billion dollar state asset as shown by this report, which provides great insight regarding the long-term positive economic impacts the project could have for the region, state and the Lower 48," said Pebble CEO John Shively in a release. "For perspective, the report indicates Pebble development alone would pay more in annual taxes to the state than the entire fishing industry combined. This clearly shows Pebble development could be an important economic driver for Alaska's future."

But critics of the proposed mine, said to contain a world-class deposit of copper, gold and molybdenum, are of the opinion that this latest release from the Pebble camp is misleading. The Pebble Partnership has yet to release a formal mine plan, and has criticized the Environmental Protection Agency for reviewing potential impacts of mining in the Bristol Bay watershed to the $1.5 billion Bristol Bay salmon industry without a concrete mine plan to review. The federal review was based in part on possible mine activity derived from early documents released by Northern Dynasty, an early partner in the mine, to its stockholders.

The economic study, however, was based on a "conceptual" mine plan, according to the Pebble Partnership.

"Pebble consistently claims they don't have a mine plan so it's hard to comment on a study that makes up job creation numbers based on a phantom mine. If pebble wants to engage in this debate, they need to admit they have a plan and share it with the public," said Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited's Alaska program.

The study also caused frustration for the Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay organization.

"It's ridiculous that the Pebble folks are crowing about temporary jobs that will only be around for the short-term and put at severe and permanent risk 14,000 jobs and a sustainable industry that produces $1.5 billion in value year after year and feeds millions of people around the world," the organization's Bob Waldrop wrote in a release.

The Pebble Partnership has said it plans to release its preliminary project design by this fall and begin the state and federal permitting process.

"While we are still finalizing our initial development plan for Pebble, this starts to give us some context about the project from an economic perspective. We are continuing our work on the environmental package for the mine, which is one of the most critical design elements. We look forward to sharing our plan with Alaskans later this year," said Shively.

The partnership said it estimates the mine construction will require a capital investment of more than $1.2 billion annual in direct spending over a five-year period. Shively said it is critical for the company to be a major positive impact to the area, transforming a region which "faces economic challenges, due largely to a serious lack of year-round jobs."

In addition, the company noted that while oil taxes and revenues account for the majority of the state budget, Pebble's contribution would range from $136 million to $180 million per year as the deposit is located on state land.

EPA comment period extended

Meanwhile, the EPA's comment period for the revised draft of the Bristol Bay assessment has been extended 30 days until June 30.

The EPA's draft watershed assessment, which has been criticized by many as being premature since it is based not on actual submitted mine plans but rather on three "hypothetical mining scenarios," was drafted in response to requests from numerous individual, organizations and tribal entities in the Bristol Bay region that were concerned about the impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine on the Bristol Bay salmon fishery.

The current draft, though not a regulatory document, does conclude that a large-scale mine like one eluded to in preliminary documents created for potential Pebble prospect investors, would destroy as many as 90 miles of streams and negatively affect between 1,200 and 4,800 acres wetlands.

The EPA's study was submitted to a scientific peer review process last year, with some of the reviewers criticizing the document's vague intent as well as unclear definition of how the hypothetical mining scenarios were created. This latest revision, which was released in late April, was intended to respond to those comments.

The public was initially given 30 days to comment on the document's revisions. The extension was given because the revisions were extensive and complex, and because the document is long.

Once the public comment period ends and the EPA receives feedback from the 12 peer reviewers, the agency said it will proceed with finalizing the assessment this year.

You can view the document, find links for sending comments and read additional information on the web at www.epa.gov/bristolbay

There are several ways you can send in comments:

• Submit online at: www.regulations.gov? Specify Docket #EPA-HQ-ORD-2013-0189?

• Send an email to ORD.Docket@epa.gov? Include EPA-HQ-ORD-2013-0189 in the subject line.

• Fax them to (202) 566-9744? Include EPA-HQ-ORD-2013-0189 in the subject line.

• Send a letter to EPA Bristol Bay docket at:

Office of Environmental Information

(Mail Code: 28221T)

Docket #EPA-HQ-ORD-2013-0189

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.

Washington, DC?20460?Those interested can contact Judy Smith at smith.judy@epa.gov or 503-326-6994 if you have questions.

 

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