Dillingham locals reject Pebble Mine, again
More than a hundred locals showed up to testify against the proposed Pebble Mine project Wednesday at an Environmental Protection Agency field hearing in Dillingham.
The hearing stretched for three hours, and for the most part, the message was the same. Many locals said the meeting felt like deja vu -- for years, most locals have weighed in at similar hearings to advocate for further restrictions against the project.
When the Obama Administration made a determination in their favor in 2014, many thought it would be the end of the hearings.
But in July, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, proposed reversing it. Now, the agency is taking public testimony on that proposal.
Wednesday’s hearing was part of that process. Those who spoke were against Pebble in any form. Many, including Dillingham representative Bryce Edgmon, Speaker of the Alaska State House, said they believed the outcome of the hearing was predetermined in Pebble’s favor.
Regardless of whether the mine can be developed responsibly, some in town fear it gives their salmon a bad reputation -- one that could destroy the market for the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.
“You put a drop of poison in a cup of water, and it doesn’t matter if it’s one drop or half the cup, no one’s going to want to drink out of it. No one’s going to want fish out of it,” said Robin Chaney, whose family has sustained itself on the fishing industry in Dillingham for generations. “So, you may have fish and if you don’t have anyone to sell it to, you’re kind of out of luck.”
"You take away our fish, you take away everything," another man said passionately at the hearing.
EPA representatives answered questions but declined to be interviewed by KTVA. The agency is taking public comment on the proposal through October 17, and representatives say they’ve already received more than 200,000 written comments from across the country.
They’ll spend the next several months analyzing them and making recommendations about whether to repeal the determination President Barak Obama made.
Another field hearing will be held in Iliamna Thursday, where a spokesperson for the Pebble Partnership says there is more support for the project.
In a written response to today's hearings, spokesman Mike Heatwole wrote:
“We support the withdrawal of the Proposed Determination that allows us enter the normal and thorough permitting process. The EPA's preemptive actions blocking the project were a first in the history of the Clean Water Act and unprecedented. All we've been seeking is access to the same permitting all other AK resource projects get to participate in.”