When I was young and my mom thought I was running with the wrong crowd, she had a simple admonition: if you lay down in the gutter, you get up dirty.
That was long ago. But today, when I look at our industry “partners” in Alaska, it feels like we’re wallowing in the gutter.
While there are many examples, perhaps the most glaring is the Pebble Partnership and its parent company, Vancouver-based Hunter Dickinson.
Many things have changed over the past 15 years Inletkeeper has worked on the Pebble mine. But one thing has remained constant: the Pebble people consistently lie to Alaskans and they work in secret to undermine the rule of law and threaten our Alaskan way of life.
This week Pebble provided yet another telling example: it submitted its long-awaited plan to “mitigate” the harm its massive open pit mine would cause in the headwaters of the world’s richest salmon fishery. But it kept the plan secret, and refused to share it with Alaskans.
You would think Pebble would be proud to show Alaskans how it plans to protect our spectacular public resources, and to send a strong signal to investors and regulators that it knows what it’s doing.
But no, Pebble once again chose secrecy and darkness over honesty and transparency.
Pebble has been lying to Alaskans for years. It won’t harm salmon, Pebble tells us. It’s building a smaller mine to address local concerns. It won’t use toxic cyanide. The permitting process is fair. The project is economically viable. In the era of fake news, Pebble finds comfort in a bed of mistruths, half truths and flat-out lies.
In the meantime, Pebble has spent lavishly on swampy lobbyists to game the permitting process, and paid fancy advertising firms to bamboozle Alaskans with the false promise of jobs and riches.
And of course we can never forget the now-famous Pebble Tapes, where Pebble executives openly bragged about controlling our politicians and stacking the deck for their dead-end project.
The question then becomes, what does it say about Alaska if our state and federal governments openly entertain a proposal like the Pebble mine from a bunch of dishonest people who put corporate profits above the public interest time and again?
The short answer is that Pebble is a giant black eye for Alaska. It’s an ugly smear on responsible development and the people who support it. And it destroys the credibility of groups like the Alaska Resource Development Council, the Alaska Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Mining Association which refuse to call-out reckless and irresponsible development.
In the end, however, we all lose with projects like Pebble. Because if Pebble’s lies, secrecy and manipulation get rewarded with the necessary permits, we’ll set the bar even lower for Outside companies to swoop-in and exploit Alaska’s incredible heritage in the years to come.
And Alaska cannot afford to wallow in that gutter.