People gather for a rally against the Pebble Mine in front of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Juneau office on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. The rally was organized by The Alaska Center, an Anchorage-based environmental organization. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

People gather for a rally against the Pebble Mine in front of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Juneau office on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. The rally was organized by The Alaska Center, an Anchorage-based environmental organization. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Pebble Mine opposition: Wrong mine for the wrong place

Rally asks senators to stop permit process funding

Six rallies around the state this week have one purpose — spurring Alaska’s U.S. senators and representative to stop Pebble Mine permitting.

The U.S. House of Representative passed an amendment last week that would suspend funding for permitting for the Proposed Pebble Mine project near Bristol Bay, and a rally held outside Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Juneau office Tuesday is part of a statewide push to get the Senate to do the same.

[Live: Coverage of Pebble Mine rally]

“We need to send a message to the Trump administration, and we need to send them back to the drawing board,” said Lindsey Bloom, representative for Commercial Fisherman For Bristol Bay.

Patrick Kearney gathers for a rally against the Pebble Mine in front of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Juneau office on Tuesday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Patrick Kearney gathers for a rally against the Pebble Mine in front of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Juneau office on Tuesday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Bloom said those who oppose Pebble Mine are particularly hoping to prompt action from Murkowski, who previously wrote to the Corps of Engineers requesting an extension for public comment period on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

“We understand this is an extraordinary weight to put on one person, but that said her voice is powerful, and she speaks for so many of us and the thousands of smaller voices across Alaska who are opposed to this project and concerned about the process we’ve been given,” Bloom said. “We are asking her to channel our voices, so that we can be heard in Washington, D.C. Unlike so many modern politicians, she is and can be truly beholden to the people of Alaska. We are fortunate to have a Senator who holds to her principles.”

Lindsey Bloom of Salmon State gives a speech at the “No Pebble Mine” rally. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lindsey Bloom of Salmon State gives a speech at the “No Pebble Mine” rally. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Murkowski’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sullivan’s office also did not immediately respond.

[Opinion: Pebble Mine is bad for business and worse for America’s outdoor heritage]

Mike Heatwole, spokesperson for Pebble Partnership, which was established in 2007 to design, permit, construct and operate the proposed mine, said encouraging the senators to act in a way that would pull funding from the permitting process undermines the purpose of National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to assess environmental effects of proposed projects.

“We’re certainly hopeful the Senate will stand up for NEPA and keep politics out of permitting,” Heatwole said.

Opponents of the project opined the Corps of Engineers is politicized under the Trump Administration.

“I think that’s a charge when you don’t like the outcome,” Heatwole said.

During Tuesday’s rally, a lot of the criticism levied at the mine focused on its environmental impact and a sentiment that the scope of its negative impact on the environment — specifically salmon runs — hasn’t been fully taken into account.

“The process is completely bankrupt and Senator Murkowski needs to turn it around,” said Frank Rue, former commissioner for Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who spoke during the rally. “It is not possible to develop this mine without destroying the salmon runs in Bristol Bay.”

[Scientists: Pebble Mine study doesn’t account for all risks]

Bloom said no amount of engineering will change the mine’s proximity to a salmon spawn spot and wetlands.

Heatwole said more than a decade has been spent researching how the proposed mine will impact the environment.

“We understand fully the cultural and commercial importance of salmon in the Bristol Bay region,” Heatwole said.

Protecting the fish was chief concern shared by Nola Lamken, Juneau resident, and Guy Archibald, staff scientist for Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. Both were among the roughly 40 rally-goers in attendance.

People gather for a rally against the Pebble Mine in front of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Juneau office on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. The rally was organized by The Alaska Center, an Anchorage-based environmental organization. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

People gather for a rally against the Pebble Mine in front of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Juneau office on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. The rally was organized by The Alaska Center, an Anchorage-based environmental organization. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Archibald said he worries about consistent incremental stress on the environment, which he compared to death by 1,000 cuts.

He said constant activity at the mine would mean the environment would not have a chance to recover from the strain.

“It’s the wrong mine in the wrong place,” Archibald said. “We don’t need more metal in our lives. We can’t trade fish for more metal.”

Joe Geldhof speaks against Pebble Mine. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Joe Geldhof speaks against Pebble Mine. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Wrong mine, wrong place is a common refrain among those who oppose the mine. It’s a near-quote of late Sen. Ted Stevens. It was used by Joe Geldhof, who spoke during the rally, to indicate opposing the mine isn’t just a cause among liberal environmentalists.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Geldhof said. “This is not a Southeast issue. This is an Alaska issue.”

Public comment for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Draft Environmental Impact Statement closes Monday, and those at the rally said they hope elected officials make their voices heard before that window closes.

[Sitka TV show to start shooting soon]

“In just a matter of days, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan will have lost the opportunity to speak up for Alaskans on Pebble Mine for this federal permit,” Bloom said. “The time is now.

She said a signal from senators that there are concerns about providing permitting to the mine would likely lead to a stall in the permitting process.

Protesters said it would also let vocal Alaskans know they’re being heard.

“Does she represent the state of Alaska or a foreign mining company?” Archibald asked.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


Judy Cavanaugh stands with others at a rally against the Pebble Mine in front of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Juneau office on Tuesday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Judy Cavanaugh stands with others at a rally against the Pebble Mine in front of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Juneau office on Tuesday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in News

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Anchor Point house fire leaves one dead, one in serious condition

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Wrangell Institute was one of many residential schools in Alaska dedicated to involuntarily teaching the Indigenous people of the state European ways of living, forcibly breaking them from their own Alaska Native cultures. (Courtesy photo / National Park Service)
Churches respond to revelations about residential schools

That acknowledgement is taking a number of forms, varying by institution.

The entrance to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area in the Tongass National Forest was covered in snow on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, a day after federal authorities announced the next step in restoring the 2001 Roadless Rule on the forest. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Feds put freeze on Roadless Rule rollback

On the Roadless Rule again.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Historic sockeye run predicted for Bristol Bay

ADF&G says 2022 run could break this year’s record

A reader board sign on the Sterling Highway announces COVID-19 testing and vaccines at the South
No current COVID-19 patients at South Peninsula Hospital

Test rates, ER visits and admissions are dropping for Homer

Family practice physician Christina Tuomi, D.O., (right) gets Homer’s first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine from Emergency Department nurse Steve Hughes (left) on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska. Tuomi has been the hospital’s medical lead throughout the pandemic. (Photo courtesy Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
Feds issue vaccine mandate to health care workers; Dunleavy joins lawsuit against the rule

Rule by CMS applies to hospitals, rural health clinics, community mental health centers.

Tim Navarre, president of the Kenai Peninsula Foundation, stands in a bedroom at a cold weather shelter set to open next month on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Shelter prepares to open doors

Efforts to establish a cold weather shelter on the peninsula have been in the works for years.

FILE - The Olympic rings stand atop a sign at the entrance to the Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, Calif., on July 8, 2020. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, declared "squaw" to be a derogatory term and said she is taking steps to remove the term from federal government use and to replace other derogatory place names. The popular California ski resort changed its name to Palisades Tahoe earlier this year. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)
Interior secretary seeks to rid U.S. of derogatory place names

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday formally declared… Continue reading

tease
Alaska man pleads not guilty to threatening 2 US senators

If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

Most Read