Every once in a while the truth slips out.
Yesterday Kurt Parkan, a mouthpiece for the giant Donlin Gold Mine, laid bare the myth of rigorous permitting in Alaska.
Parkan is a special-breed, having worked for the nonprofit The Nature Conservancy for 5 years before latching onto a lucrative job with a large mining company. And he knows exactly how the permitting process works.
But he should have added that not only do big corporations expect permits, they get them.
I have been working on permitting and fish habitat protection in Alaska for over 20 years, and I have never seen a government agency deny a permit for a large oil, gas or mining project.
But Parkan & Donlin are not alone. In fact, the entire fight over Ballot Measure 1 – the Stand for Salmon Initiative – is about giant corporations trying to stop Alaskans from protecting our wild salmon. Why? So they can cut corners and make more money. Period.
A Usibelli Coal spokesperson put it even more bluntly. In her fight this year against HB 199 – legislation to modernize our 60-year-old salmon habitat law and remove the need for the Stand for Salmon Initiative – Usibelli Coal’s Lorali Simon said this:
“By definition, a permitting process is intended to permit an activity. The opposite of permitting an activity would be denial of an activity. Alaska does not have a denial system — it has a permitting system.”
So, there you have it, in a nutshell. We MUST give these giant corporations a free pass to destroy our fish habitat, or they will kick and scream like petulant children and spend millions to buy an election about the fate of our salmon.
Donlin will be a massive hole that will impact untold fish habitat and threaten the many families and communities who rely on the riches of the Kuskokwim River. Usibelli mines and sells coal, the energy of the past that’s creating the “warm blob” in our ocean and upending our fish food chains.
But don’t expect these big corporations to have a conscience. Just follow the money. To date, they’ve amassed more than $9 million from the likes of Pebble, British Petroleum, Donlin and others.
In Alaska, it’s called a permitting system for a simple reason: it’s designed to issue permits. It’s not a fish protection system.
So, there’s only one thing to do about it: Vote Yes on Ballot Measure 1, and Stand for Salmon.