Threats posed to the Bristol Bay watershed by the proposed Pebble Mine took center stage in Washington, DC this week at a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Several Alaskans used the forum to ask Congress to stop the mine.

Alannah Hurley is director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay,

“If Pebble is developed, there is no doubt it will forever change who I am, who my people are, where I come from,’ she said. “And it will rob our children’s children of their right to continue being Native people as we have for thousands of years in Bristol Bay.”

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Alaska Public Radio’s Liz Ruskin said Pebble CEO Tom Collier, the only witness for the mine, “tilted back in his chair and looked at the ceiling as Hurley spoke.”

Alaska Congressman Don Young criticized the anti-Pebble witnesses for not being scientists.

“You’re not listening to the science,” Young said. “You’re saying a lot of what ifs. Can and cannot. Should we or shouldn’t we. And this committee has a responsibility to review those that are directly involved. Not those that may be affected about it. It’s about science.”

Richard Borden, a geologist with over 30 years’ experience in permitting mines around the world said it would take at least $40 million a year to treat the water flow from the Pebble site even after the mine closed, and possibly forever.

“There’s mines in Spain that the Romans mined that are still producing acid-rock drainage.”

Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio of Oregon questioned the permitting process in an interview with Ruskin.

“What I first want is a proper review and a proper comment period, and I don’t believe the Corps is doing either of those things. And I’m going to push them very hard to push back, even if Donald Trump is pushing on the other side.”

DeFazio was referring to an abrupt pull back of special protections the EPA placed on the Bristol Bay watershed in 2014. The restrictions were  lifted on July 30 at after Governor Dunleavy met with Donald Trump.

That pullback has prompted three lawsuits against the EPA by nearly 20 diverse groups on behalf of the Bristol Bay region.

Wednesday’s hearing is typically the first step before an investigation on the permitting process is launched, said Molly Dischner, communications director for United Tribes of Bristol Bay.

The Pebble project has spent over $2 million on nine federal lobbyists, Ruskin reported. Meanwhile, a preliminary final impact statement on Pebble is expected in January.

The Pebble Mine will headline the forums at Pacific Marine Expo, November 21-23 in Seattle. See the line up at www.pacificmarineexpo.com

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