Cantwell Urges White House To Stop Alaska Pebble Mine Project, Protect Fishermen

By:  KPLU – Ed Ronco
Source: KPLU

Sen. Maria Cantwell is sending a letter to the White House, asking the president to stop a mining project in Alaska.

About 1,000 Washington residents hold permits to fish for salmon in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Not far from there, an organization called the Pebble Partnership wants to open a gold and copper mine.

That’s a bad idea, said people gathered outside Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal on Thursday.

“Bristol Bay put me through high school and college, from a financial standpoint, “ said Lange Solberg, a third-generation Bristol Bay fisherman.

Solberg says the Pebble Mine’s promises of jobs for the region are tempting, but come with too-high risks.

“I can see both sides, but philosophically, I’m anti-development of the mine. Wrong place, wrong time,” Solberg said.

Cantwell, D-Wash., echoed the crowd’s sentiments as she described the mine as a “giant cauldron of toxic waste.”

“I say that, because the science shows that this material would take hundreds of thousands of years to get rid of it reached the watershed. So, one mistake and that cauldron starts to seep into our water, into the fish and killing these important jobs,” she said.

An assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency said the mine posed a danger to salmon and would destroy spawning grounds. Cantwell wants President Obama to follow up on that EPA assessment and use his authority stop the project.

The Pebble Partnership, which wants to open the mine, says Cantwell’s request is unprecedented. Spokesman Mike Heatwole says the partnership hasn’t even applied for permits yet and the assessment doesn’t say much.

“The EPA’s document is not conclusive science, but rather a political report intended to harm our project’s ability to apply for permits, and frankly receive a review under the environmental laws of our country,” he said.

Heatwole says the salmon can co-exist with the mine, and Pebble Mine could bring thousands of jobs and billions in economic development to western Alaska.