ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Opponents of Alaska’s Pebble Mine said they are disappointed with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s wording of a bill to fund federal resource agencies.
Murkowski was involved in releasing the bill Tuesday that includes a 240-word passage about the mine in an explanatory report, Alaska Public Media reported.
The Republican senator can help determine the Pebble project’s outcome because she chairs the appropriations subcommittee writing annual bills to sustain the U.S. Department of the Interior and federal environmental agencies.
The Pebble Limited Partnership has proposed an open-pit mine with related infrastructure including a power plant and water treatment plants and tailings storage sites. The project is located in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, where about half the world’s sockeye salmon comes from.
The Pebble partnership maintains the mine would do no measurable damage to the bay’s salmon.
Tim Bristol, director of conservation organization SalmonState, said Murkowski appears to have passed up a chance to demonstrate her commitment to an October statement in which she said Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place.
“I think if we would’ve seen something that essentially recommended no spending be allowed in the next fiscal year to move forward with the Pebble project, that would’ve been a little more reassuring. But this doesn’t do that,” Bristol said. “It just seems to sort of describe the situation as it is right now.”
Murkowski’s Pebble passage reiterates that the Army Corps of Engineers determined the mine cannot be permitted as proposed, noting project managers have until mid-November to submit a wetlands mitigation plan.
The appropriations committee report encourages the government to deny the permit if the Pebble partnership fails to submit a complete and functional plan by the deadline.
Murkowski spokeswoman Karina Borger said the senator wanted the Corps to know it must hold the mitigation plan to a high standard and Pebble should end the process if the requirements cannot be met.
Pebble spokesman Mike Heatwole said the company is on track to produce a plan by Nov. 18.