When it comes to development projects like the Pebble mine, our state agencies in Alaska are supposed to be neutral arbiters. They can call balls and strikes, and but they’re not supposed to hit home runs for one side or another.
But a recent letter from the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources makes it painfully clear the State of Alaska is tilting the playing field for a Canadian mining company while ignoring every Alaskan concerned about the coronavirus and the health of Bristol Bay.
On April 15, DNR Commissioner Corri Feige wrote a letter to the Army Corps urging it to stick to its permitting schedule for the Pebble mine, despite the chaos and confusion caused by the coronavirus.
Fiege’s letter is remarkably tone-deaf on one hand, and reflects horrible public policy on the other.
First, in urging the Corps to plow ahead despite the myriad disruptions caused by the coronavirus, Feige completely ignores the Native and commercial fishing voices from Bristol Bay who have called-on the Corps to suspend Pebble permitting. As a result, Feige’s letter is another giant slap in the face to Alaskans who believe DNR should be looking out for the health and safety of Alaskans, rather than lobbying for a Canadian mining company.
Second, Feige’s letter makes no effort to hide the fact the Dunleavy Administration presumes Pebble will get its permits (e.g., “The proposed Pebble Mine Project is important to Alaskans, as it will provide jobs, infrastructure, and revenues critical for local, regional, and statewide economies… (emphasis added)”). In fact, the whole letter makes Pebble sound like a foregone conclusion.
Yet, by so blatantly showing its bias towards Pebble, Feige helps expose the myth around virtually every permitting decision in Alaska. The state is not a neutral arbiter, but rather, it’s an active booster. A lobbyist. A prejudiced party.
And to make matters worse, Feige’s running interference for Pebble using our Alaskan tax dollars. The least she could do is to pass through the revolving door from state employment to corporate mining executive, and represent these Canadians with a Pebble hat on.