Today marks the third hearing the House Science Committee has held on the proposed Pebble Mine right in our backyard in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
The distance between Washington, D.C. and Alaska has never felt farther than when we hear these politicians in Washington, DC talking about the proposed Pebble Mine.
Politicians who have never been to Alaska -- let alone to Bristol Bay -- seem fixated on doing the bidding of a big Canadian mining company that doesn't create any jobs in their districts -- but sure wants to destroy a lot of great jobs in our backyard, threatening an entire way of life.
Since they don't seem interested in hearing from Alaska's commercial fishermen at their hearing today maybe these Congressmen will at least read our words on the Huffington Post , or finally come to Alaska and see for themselves why we feel so strongly. Make no mistake: one thing that absolutely unifies Alaska is opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine project.
Many of us have spent the better part of a decade fighting to educate the public about the importance of stopping the Pebble Mine. We thought that this issue had finally been settled. The EPA heard us, assessed the science, and started to take appropriate action. But now we've seen the last year and unimaginable amounts of taxpayer money wasted with phony and frivolous lawsuits, demands for Inspector General Reports that - when completed - actually showed EPA has been in the right all along, endless Congressional witch hunts, and all kinds of red tape and distraction to keep this dangerous Pebble Mine project on life support.
Why? Why is a House Science Committee without a single member from Alaska so fixated on something we live and breathe every day, and so oblivious to how strongly we feel as Alaskans?
Why do we feel so strongly? It's actually pretty simple: this is our livelihood.
Bristol Bay supports the world's most valuable wild salmon fishery and 40,000 jobs, an average run of 37.5 million fish, produces 46% of the world's sockeye salmon, more than six percent of the United States' entire seafood exports. It's jobs in Alaska, jobs in Washington state and throughout the west coast, whether commercial fishing, processing, or all the downstream industries - supporting three jobs for every direct job in Bristol bay. It's been this way for over a century.
There's no other place like Bristol Bay - and once it is gone, it's gone. We refuse to see our jobs and our way of life taken away by a foreign-owned mine scheme that the scientists and the Alaskans themselves have already made clear should never be allowed to go forward.
The risk is real and undeniable: jobs and an industry could be wiped away if there was ever a mining disaster because of the Pebble Mine. These aren't crocodile tears. We've seen it happen before with Mt. Polley. It can happen in Bristol Bay - a Pebble Mine disaster would be the Exxon Valdez of mine explosions - but it doesn't have to happen.
That's why I'm speaking out -- one of many concerned commercial fisherman.
What would I like to see asked at today's hearing? The question that is increasingly on our mind is clear: can the Northern Dynasty Company -- hemorrhaging tens of millions of dollars each year to pay an army of lawyers and lobbyists -- even afford to fix the damage they've already done to Alaska? The damage caused by Northern Dynasty's initial exploration is still here - thousands of holes drilled -- even though the company has largely washed its hands of Alaska and shifted its entire focus to paying lobbyists and lawyers thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C. Seventeen million dollars alone just on lawyers last year! They have a deficit of $379 million dollars and they've lost more than $30 million dollars each year for the last two years. Their own auditor has warned of "material uncertainties that raise substantial doubt about the Company's ability to continue as a going concern." But you probably won't hear a word about it today from the Committee holding this hearing.
We're Alaskans and Americans -- and we want to know why the House Science Committee isn't standing with us to protect Bristol Bay and great jobs for Alaskans and Americans. When will we finally receive an answer?