Ballot Measure 4, which will appear on the August 26 primary ballot, is a pre-emptive strike by opponents of the Pebble Mine. A mine which hasn't even been proposed yet. The problem is the initiative doesn't just prematurely toss the baby out with the bath water, it throws out the entire bathroom.
Consider the case of NANA's Red Dog Mine.
NANA currently operates the Red Dog Mine in Northwest Alaska with its partner Teck-Cominco. In 2007 mining revenues topped $58 million dollars. Sixty-two percent of NANA's profits were distributed to other Native corporations, as provided by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
The mine currently employees 465 people with an annual payroll of $48 million. Almost 56 percent of those employees are NANA shareholders, from a region beset with high unemployment and few good job opportunities. Ballot Measure 4 puts this all at risk.
According to Rosie Barr, NANA's resources manager, the battle took an unpleasant turn when proponents of Ballot Measure 4 sent emissaries to Vancouver to meet with Teck-Cominco executives. Their message was simple -- join us in opposing Pebble Mine or we will come after you.
Then, Barr said, the proponents went directly to NANA, and said if the corporation didn't support the initiative they would attack the Red Dog mine. Finally, those same proponents came back once more and promised if NANA would back off, they'd have lawmakers grant them an exemption for the Red Dog mine.
However, this offer raised a critical question: if the Red Dog mine was such a serious polluter as the proponents of Ballot Measure 4 claimed in their attack ads, why would they offer them an exemption? Either their claims about Red Dog being a dangerous polluter were lies or these folks have less than pure motives.
The bottom line is that this ballot measure is targeted to stop the Pebble Mine but its vague language means anything goes and the proponents of Ballot Measure 4 recognize that point. That's why they offered to try and get lawmakers to grant the Red Dog Mine an exemption.
If you read the measure, nowhere in the four pages do the words Pebble Mine or Bristol Bay even appear. In fact one of the organizers told me directly that the measure had to be written in vague language. So what they have claimed the initiative won't do, like impact existing mines, is just plain wrong considering their own admission that the measure is vague.
The grandfather clause is completely speculative because no mine has every permit granted in perpetuity. Permits expire and must be renewed on a regular basis and this measure creates the environment for changing rules and loop holes that could encourage litigation.
Meanwhile Ballot Measure 4 proponents continue to rely on scare tactics to frighten people into voting for their admittedly vague measure.
The major group funding this campaign is Americans for Job Security, or AJS. They have repeatedly ignored requests to identify where their money is coming from. In an Anchorage Daily News article on August 17, reporter Elizabeth Bluemink writes that Art Hackney, who is listed as the group's treasurer, "claims he doesn't know the identity of the group's members or its source of money for the Measure 4 fight." Wait a minute, Hackney is the treasurer of the group yet he doesn't know where the funding is coming from?
While concerns about a mine in the Bristol Bay area are valid, there is no such thing as Pebble Mine today. There are no Pebble plans, no Pebble permits and nothing established about the scope of the Pebble project. Today it is simply in the exploratory phase. The reaction by the Ballot Measure 4 proponents is completely premature and in their attempts to stop a project that isn't even a project yet, they are adopting a nuclear approach to Alaska's mining industry.
The fact is even if you have concerns about the Pebble Mine, you can still vote no on Ballot Measure 4. There are other, more targeted ways to address concerns about a potential Pebble Mine without putting Alaska's economy at risk.
Andrew Halcro is a former Republican legislator who ran for governor as an independent in 2006. You can read his blog at www.andrewhalcro.com.