UPDATE! May 17, 2019
Court Dismisses Pebble’s Bogus Effort to Silence Fishermen Dunleavy Administration Wastes State Money on Frivolous Lawsuit In April we wrote about Pebble’s ham-fisted attempts to silence Bristol Bay fishermen with […]
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Court Dismisses Pebble’s Bogus Effort to Silence Fishermen

Dunleavy Administration Wastes State Money on Frivolous Lawsuit

In April we wrote about Pebble’s ham-fisted attempts to silence Bristol Bay fishermen with a frivolous lawsuit (see below).  Today, the Alaska Superior Court agreed that Pebble’s lawsuit had absolutely no merit, and it dismissed the case.

If you’ve ever watched any courtroom dramas on TV, you might know that courts don’t like to dismiss lawsuits, and they only do it in the most extreme circumstances.  As the Superior Court wrote: “[a] motion to dismiss…is viewed with disfavor and should rarely be granted.”

The Pebble lawsuit argued the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association did not have the legal authority to contract with entities working to educate and organize fishermen about the threats posed by the Pebble mine to commercial fisheries.  The Court, however, summarily dismissed these arguments, and noted how utterly ridiculous Pebble’s position was:  

“Interpreting the statute as restricting RSDAs’ abilities to devote efforts regarding environmental concerns in their regions has the potential to produce some absurd results. For example, a RSDA could advertise and market its salmon as wild, pristine, and sustainable but would not be able to spend funds in a way to keep those brand identities authentic in its view or spend funds to signal to its consumers its efforts to maintain that brand identity.”

In other words, Pebble’s arguments were laughable.  But what’s not so funny is the waste of time and resources this baseless lawsuit produced.  Not only did the BBRDSA have to spend time and money fighting Pebble’s intimidation tactics, but co-defendants United Tribes of Bristol Bay and SalmonState did too.  And as the state grapples with a massive budget shortfall – with proposed cuts to teachers and kids and seniors – it’s important to note the Dunleavy Administration wasted state resources by supporting this litigation.

In addition to booting Pebble out of court, the Court ruling provides another silver lining: Pebble now has to pay the defendants’ attorneys fees and costs.  While it’s likely Pebble will appeal, it will most certainly lose again, and owe more to defendants in fees and costs.

In many ways, Pebble’s frivolous lawsuit is a good metaphor for the Pebble mine itself:  it has no basis in law or fact, it cares little about commercial fisheries and the countless families they support, and it’s based on bluff and bluster designed to bully opponents into concessions.

Fortunately, Alaskans won’t stand for this type of nonsense from a junior Canadian mining company that has no idea what it’s doing. And the Alaska Superior Court just proved it.

Original Story: Pebble SLAPPs Bristol Bay Fishermen

Pebble CEO Tom Collier recently told anyone who would listen that “no one gives a rat’s ass what happens in Alaska.” So, it’s pretty clear the Pebble people don’t give a shit about Alaska.

The latest proof comes in a recent lawsuit – funded by Pebble – to stomp out the voices of Bristol Bay fishermen opposed to the giant Pebble mine.

Pebble’s goal?  To intimidate and divide Bristol Bay fishermen so a Canadian corporation can dig a giant hole in the headwaters of the world’s richest sockeye fishery.

These types of bully tactics are not new.  Large corporations like Pebble have used them for decades to squash local people opposed to toxic waste sites in their neighborhoods or oil rigs in their fisheries.  They’re called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation – or SLAPP suits – and they seek to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the high costs of litigation. 

The Pebble SLAPP suit is a flagrant effort to stop Alaskans from protecting our wild fish resources. In fact, SLAPP suits run so counter to our First Amendment free speech rights – and they create such an unfair advantage for deep-pocketed corporations—that 28 states have banned or limited them.

And let’s make no mistake: the legal complaint filed against the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association is a textbook case of a frivolous lawsuit, plain and simple.  It alleges BBRSDA illegally used funds to fight Pebble, beyond its statutory mandate. 

But the fact remains, BBRSDA has broad latitude under state law, and it can educate, conduct research, and engage in a large array of activities around Bristol Bay seafood.  And fighting the Pebble mine – which poses an existential threat to Bristol Bay salmon and the people and businesses they support – is certainly within BBRSDA’s legal wheelhouse.  

It’s not enough that Pebble’s been lying to Alaskans about fish impacts, cyanide and mine size. It’s not enough that Pebble’s working with a group funded by the Koch Brothers to install politics over science in the permitting debate.

It’s not enough the Army Corps is racing ahead with a horribly flawed EIS that ignores Alaskan voices. And it’s not enough that Pebble CEO Tom Collier had dinner at the Governor’s mansion with ADEC Commissioner Jason Brune on the very night the Army Corps released the draft EIS.

No, Pebble wants it all. They want complete control to gouge-out the headwaters of Bristol Bay so Tom Collier can get his “extraordinary” bonus, up to $12.5 million, if permits issue quickly. They want to trade a renewable resource that supports countless Alaskan communities and families, in exchange for a massive open-pit metal mine that will need to treat its toxic waste in perpetuity.

But perhaps most importantly, Pebble wants to silence the fishermen in Bristol Bay. They want to strip the fishermens’ free speech rights, and bully anyone who dares stand-up to their profit-at-any-costs agenda.

As the old adage goes, “if you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention.” Pebble’s ham-fisted tactics are an affront to every Alaskan who believes in free speech, a fair process and the rule of law.  So make time to speak-out, join your friends and fellow fishermen, and tell Pebble what they can do with their giant, toxic hole in the ground:

Homer: Thursday, April 11, 4:30-9:00 PM, Homer High School (RALLY STARTS AT 5:30)

Anchorage: Tuesday, April 16, 12:00-8:00 PM, Dena’ina Center (600 W 7th Ave) (RALLY STARTS AT 5:30)