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Are anti-Pebble mine ads credible?

Andrew Halcro

The recent television ads created by the opponents of Pebble Mine have reached an absurdly new low. Unfortunately, that's not surprising for this crowd.

In an October election held in the Lake/Pen Borough, local voters barely approved a clearly unconstitutional ballot initiative, intended to cripple the state's ability to manage mining on state owned land in the area.

After the embarrassingly slim margin of victory, the anti-pebble group started running a series of television ads trying to explain away why a majority of local voters either didn't vote, or voted against the anti-Pebble initiative. Promoters of the initiative had said the vote would be a referendum on the Pebble Mine.

Since the election was held by mail, every eligible voter was sent a ballot. Every voter had the opportunity to vote by simply marking the ballot and returning it with the postage already paid.

Out of 1,192 ballots mailed out, only 526, less than half, bothered to return them. The final tally was 280 for the initiative, and 234 against the initiative with a handful of ballots disallowed because the voters weren't residents of the borough.

Soon after the election, the first ad began running claiming that voters' rights were violated by the Pebble Partnership.

"They kept us from voting ... they misled us," say two local Pebble Mine opponents while looking into the camera with sullen faces. The ad closes with one of the residents claiming the election fraud proves the Pebble Partnership can't be trusted.

Really?

And just how did the Pebble Partnership keep 660 eligible voters from voting?

Did they steal voters mail so supporters of the initiative wouldn't have ballots? Did they block the roads to the post office or hide mailboxes? Maybe they secretly had the wrong return address printed on the ballots. Or maybe, just maybe, people didn't vote because they really didn't care enough to invest the five minutes to mark their ballot and drop it in the mailbox.

In addition, violating voting rights is a serious federal offense. Did either of these two, or anyone else who was kept from voting, complain to the Department of Justice? Did they complain to the State Attorney General? Did they complain to anyone other than the person shooting the commercial?

The answer is no.

So lets recap; it wasn't important for these voters to file a complaint about a serious allegation of voting rights abuses but it was important for them to make a television commercial about their mistreatment.

Please.

The second ad began running in October and features Keith Jensen, President of the Pedro Bay Village Council, talking about how he knows the Pebble Partnership is destroying the area at their mine site.

A friend of mine just returned from Pebble and told me he was amazed at how they were trashing the environment, Jensen says to the camera.

Not to be repetitive, but really?

If this is true why didn't they put the friend in the ad to give a first-hand account? Did this friend complain to the DEC? Did this friend complain to the EPA?

And how about Jensen himself? After hearing the news from his friend did he call the proper authorities? Did he request a visit to the Pebble site to investigate for himself?

After all, he is the Village Council President, you'd think he'd be on the phone to the DNR, DEC, the EPA and even the AARP sharing his tales of earthly destruction.

And once again, considering the seriousness of these environmental allegations, did Jensen do anything more than record a television advertisement?

These anti-Pebble ads are lies.

Unadulterated lies.

In response to a recent lawsuit filed by anti-Pebblites claiming a number of environmental and procedural violations by the State and the Pebble Partnership, Judge Eric Aarseth handed down a 154-page ruling that put the period on my assertion that these commercials are nothing but blatant lies.

Aarseth's ruling completely vindicated the State's handling of the project, rejecting all allegations raised by opponents.

In his lengthy ruling, Judge Aarseth concluded:

1. Plaintiffs failed to prove that there was long-term or harmful environmental impacts from Pebble’s drilling operations.

2. There is no persuasive evidence that drilling activities have caused impacts to fish or fish habitat.

3. Plaintiffs evidence was insufficient to show that drilling activities have caused impacts to wildlife or wildlife habitat.

4. There is no evidence of permanent or long term environmental harm resulting from fuel spills.

5. There is no evidence that mineral exploration activities have caused significant and permanent impacts to vegetation.

6. There is no evidence that exploration activities have impacted any archaeological or cultural resources.

7. Pebble’s permits do not provide for exclusive use of state land or waters.

8. Pebble’s drilling operation and water withdrawals do not impact reasonable concurrent use of water by fisheries resources.

9. The plaintiffs failed to prove that drilling operations impacted reasonable concurrent use of state lands by wildlife resources.

10. Pebble’s exploration activity has not excluded hunting guides.

11. The plaintiffs failed to prove that exploration activity has impacted or excluded subsistence users.

These are the facts as a matter of law.

Anything else is hearsay, false allegations and lies propagated by the anti-Pebblites and their ad man, whose credibility continues to go wanting.

Andrew Halcro is the publisher of AndrewHalcro.com, a blog devoted to Alaska issues and politics, where this commentary first appeared. He is president of Halcro Strategies and Avis/Alaska Rent-A-Car, his family business. Halcro served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1999 to 2003, and he ran for governor in 2006 as an Independent.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.