Home Politics Culture Grover Norquist Supports the Pebble Mine. Poorly.

Grover Norquist Supports the Pebble Mine. Poorly.

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Most Americans know Grover Norquist for saying: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

The founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform (read: elimination) etched his name into the history-books-of-unhelpful by bringing us the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” described by Mother Jones as “a document the length and subtlety of a bumper sticker than commits politicians to oppose ‘any and all efforts to increase taxes.’”

Come inflation, wars, debt ceiling, states of emergency – no new taxes. Don’t let rational fiscal policy get in the way of ideological evangelism.

Senator Murkowski, Representative Young, Governor Parnell, Lieutenant Governor and Senatorial candidate Mead Treadwell, and state senators Fred Dyson and Cathy Giessel have all signed on.

As Sunday’s public comment period neared, Norquist jumped into the fight over Bristol Bay by encouraging people to support Pebble Mine.

Radical environmentalists are lobbying the EPA to preemptively reject Southwest Alaska’s Pebble Mine under its Clean Water Act authority. This unique and unprecedented move would allow it to reject a project before a permit application is even submitted.

That’s like asking a judge to issue a verdict before hearing the case.

The EPA is currently gauging public opinion before making a decision. The Left is flooding the EPA with calls to kill the Pebble Mine project.

Pro-growth, pro-jobs conservatives should… urge the EPA to get out of the way of American job creators and give the Pebble Mine a fair shake:

War on Coal Nothing New.

For starters, Norquist should probably have bothered to know that Pebble isn’t a coal mine.

Additionally, objection to Pebble is not a “snap verdict.”

Polling data on Pebble dates back to 2006. The most recent poll shows a majority of Alaskans oppose the mine. Legal challenges began four years ago. There were two legislative fixes attempted six years ago, a high profile ballot initiative in 2008, another in 2011, where locals narrowly passed an attempt to derail the project, and a current effort in the signature gathering process.

Norquist’s cast of “radical environmentalists” is also suspect. Was he referring to former Republican state representatives Jay Ramras and Nancy Dahlstrom? They were sponsors of the first of two bills aimed at stopping the project. Or current State Senator Gary Stevens, who sponsored the other? Former Republican State Senate President Rick Halford has also been a vocal opponent of Pebble.

The late Senator Ted Stevens opposed the mine too, saying: “If this was some essential commodity that we absolutely had to have to run our economy it would be a different matter, and even then I would want to have a lot better attention being paid to the environmental process. But this one, I just don’t like.”

Norquist’s claims surrounding job creation as a result of Pebble are similarly shortsighted.

Pebble Partnership, the Outside mining outfits pushing the project, released its own report estimating the creation of 16,000 jobs to support construction. However, the jobs are described as “nationwide,” with only 5,000 instate jobs – and no guarantees or figures pertaining to the percentage of local hire.

But Norquist is appealing to a national audience likely unconcerned whether or not Pebble’s “Alaska” jobs go to Alaskans. The larger problem (which should concern every American) is where the mineral deposits are located: at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed; home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

According to an April 2013 study by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER):

The Bristol Bay salmon fishery is the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery. It contributes well over $1 billion in value and about 10,000 jobs to the United States economy every year, across multiple industries and states.

In 2010, over 12,000 fishing and processing jobs resulted from the fishery, equaling more than $500 million in take home cash in income. 4,000 of those jobs went to Alaskans.

According to the EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, released earlier this year, “mining would, at minimum, cause the loss of spawning and rearing habitat for multiple salmonids….”

The scenarios the EPA evaluated found that mining would result in the direct loss of between 24 to 90 miles of streams and 1,200 to 4,800 acres of wetlands. In two of the three scenarios they investigated, the “losses would adversely affect the Alaska Native cultures and the wildlife of the region.”

In other words, the mine and the Bristol Bay salmon fishery are incompatible. Pebble would have a parasitic effect on the fishery.

Pebble Partnership estimates that the mine will take five years to construct and will operate for 30 years, with possible further development. Eventually, you’re going to end up with a giant open pit full of waste with nothing left of value to extract, but a whole lot of waste we still have to pay for, forever.

As ISER points out, the Bristol Bay salmon fishery “has operated continuously for more than 120 years and can continue to provide significant and widespread economic benefits across multiple industries and states for the foreseeable future.”

One of these things is not like the other.

The EPA’s public comment period ended at midnight this past Sunday and will now undergo a period of peer review before a final report is issued. Over 600,000 commented. The agency does have the power to halt exploration and development of mining in the region by invoking a provision in the Clean Water Act.

I’m sure Grover Norquist doesn’t hate salmon. But he sure seems excited to inadvertently drown them in a bathtub full of toxic waste. The phoned in, inaccurate title he lent to his post best illustrates how little he knows about the topic: “Obama’s EPA Continues to Kill Jobs and Prosperity.”

The EPA isn’t killing any jobs – if it does intervene, the agency will be acting to preserve a vital industry that we cannot afford to lose. It’s Pebble that stands as the biggest threat to our jobs, and our salmon.

John Aronno is a co-founder, managing editor, and award winning political writer at Alaska Commons. Aronno has had his work featured in the Huffington Post, the Anchorage Press, the Alaska Dispatch, and the Rachel Maddow Show, and is listed among the state’s top reporters on the Washington Post’s “The Fix.” He writes the weekly column “On Politics” for Alaska Commons. Aronno lives in Anchorage, Alaska with his wife, Heather Aronno, and a lot of pets.

6 COMMENTS

  1. With Alaska facing a predicted $1.3 billion shortfall and 8.5 percent unemployment, Americans for Tax Reform continues to urge President Obama, Congress, and state elected officials to look toward energy exploration and production to create jobs, decrease the cost of energy and increase our domestic supply.
    Allowing for full development of Alaska’s offshore resources would bring necessary commerce to Alaska, increasing its economic output (GSP) by $3.3 billion annually.
    While the private sector continues to shed jobs, offshore drilling would bring 11,242 long-term, well paying jobs to the state of Alaska over the next seven years – every job associated with offshore drilling earns above average wages, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
    Investment in oil exploration would bring in $292 million in additional tax revenue annually, without raising taxes, and could be used to pay down Alaska’s $1.3 billion deficit.
    The current plan proposed by President Obama restricts or prohibits states from complete oil exploration, substantially reducing the economic gains readily available to struggling states.

    “All of the benefits associated with offshore drilling, increased economic output, well-paying jobs, new tax revenue, remain locked up in America’s oil reserves. Although a majority of Americans support offshore development, the Obama administration has put forth a plan that inhibits Alaska’s economic recovery and ability to grow over the coming years,” said Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform.

  2. Before you support and promote something, Grover, take a few moments on Google to learn what the heck it is. Pebble Mine is a gold and copper deposit, not coal. I understand that the devastation to some of our most pristine wilderness, wildlife and the worlds most valuable salmon fishery would have no effect on you, personally. That doesn’t mean that it’s ethical or a good idea. Feel free to promote the ruination of your own state of residence. As far as Alaska is concerned, please shut up. You are an excellent example of the fact that a college graduate can still, absolutely, be an idiot.

  3. People like Grover don’t care about the environment or the people that this mine will negatively impact. Money is their only concern and once the mine has been played out and the owners leave the toxic mess behind for the American tax payers to deal with they will be the loudest voices in complaining about the cost of cleaning up the mess. For the life of me I cannot understand what people like him think about when they know going in that the tailings and waste water will need to be maintained and be toxic forever!It’s all about permanent destruction for short term profit,how much money is enough for people like you Grover?

  4. Supporters said the bigger threat is to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, which they say provides over 12,000 jobs and contributes over $250 million annually to Alaska’s economy.

What do you think?