Dunleavy responds to Pebble Mine report

Governor doesn’t answer questions about verbatim language

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his staff are defending the relationship between the administration and the Pebble Partnership, following a report from CNN alleging the company coached Dunleavy and staff to advocate for the Pebble Mine.

In a phone interview with the Empire Friday evening, Dunleavy said there was always discussion with parties on both sides of an issue during the planning phase of any project.

“There’s always discussion, there’s always review,” Dunleavy said. “Historically speaking, when it comes to resource based projects, there’s discussions with investors, there’s review of information.”

On Dec. 19, CNN released a report claiming to have emails between Dunleavy and his staff and Pebble showing the company coached and even ghost wrote a number of letters and talking points for the governor.

On Dec. 20, CNN published a letter from Dunleavy to the Army Corps of Engineers alongside a draft of the same letter from Pebble’s chief of staff with identical language highlighted in yellow. Both letters are almost entirely highlighted.

When asked about the identical language Dunleavy said, “I understand that people have said that. The point for me is that’s there’s always review of data of papers.”

Dunleavy was critical of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama that in 2015 issued a preemptive veto against the Pebble Partnership’s Canadian parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals.

“The concept of a preemptive veto is just wrong,” Dunleavy said. “I don’t believe it’s good for Alaska. I don’t think it’s good for any project if you just shut down before you understand what that project could do for or could do in terms of harm.”

The Washington Post reported in 2015 the EPA’s decision was, “supported by a broad coalition of conservationists, fisherman and tribal groups.”

Dunleavy met with President Trump aboard Air Force One in June and shortly thereafter the EPA announced it would be withdrawing the veto.

The governor’s call to the Empire occurred after the end of business hours Friday and neither the Pebble Partnership nor Dynasty Minerals could immediately be reached for contact.

The Pebble project has been extremely controversial prompting a number of protests and the creation of advocacy campaigns against the project.

“Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office was given detailed talking points, ghostwritten letters and advice on lobbying strategies by Pebble Limited Partnership executives,” CNN wrote. “Dunleavy and his office then used that material, sometimes adopting the company’s language word for word, in an effort that culminated in President Donald Trump promising favorable action on the mine.”

During a press conference with reporters Dec. 19, Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner deflected a question from a reporter about the CNN report saying he could answer any questions about the matter separately.

In an email to the Empire the same day, Tuner said, “it is common practice for an administration to request briefing materials on a specific project.”

[Pebble Mine opposition: Wrong mine for the wrong place]

Turner wrote the governor supports natural resource development projects, including mining, that can meet or exceed Alaska’s stringent environmental standards, “which are considered highest in the world.”

Dunleavy has consistently said the Pebble project should undergo a rigorous and impartial analysis by Alaska’s regulatory agencies, Turner’s email said.

During the interview Dunleavy suggested there was political motivation behind the report.

“I would ask that you take a look at the actual organization, and who is going to be the next head of that organization,” Dunleavy said in reference to the Natural Resource Defense Council. CNN interviewed lawyers from the NRDC for its report but did not say how it obtained the emails between Dunleavy and Pebble.

In November, NDRC announced that former EPA chief under Obama Gina McCarthy would be president of the organization.

Dunleavy did not directly answer questions about the nearly verbatim language used in his letter to the Army Corps of Engineers and the draft letter sent to his staff by Pebble.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.