For the last four years Alaskans have had ringside seats to the pitched advertising battle between the Pebble Partnership and an opposition group intent on stopping the proposed Pebble mine before the project even files its permit applications. Recently the anti-Pebble group has elevated its allegations of criminal wrongdoing.
In an October election held in the Lake and Peninsula Borough, local voters barely approved a ballot initiative intended to cripple the state's ability to manage mining on state-owned land in the area. Prior to the election, promoters of the initiative had called the vote a referendum on the Pebble mine.
Out of 1,192 ballots mailed out, only 526 people, less than half of the recipients, bothered to return them. The final tally was 280 for the initiative, and 234 against, with a handful of ballots disallowed because the voters weren't residents of the borough.
After the embarrassingly slim margin of victory, the anti-Pebble group started running a series of television ads trying to explain why a majority of local voters either didn't vote, or voted against the anti-Pebble initiative.
Soon after the election, a television ad began airing making the accusation that voters' rights were violated by the Pebble Partnership. They kept us from voting and misled us, say two local Pebble mine opponents while looking into the camera. The ad closes with one of the residents claiming the election fraud proves the Pebble Partnership can't be trusted.
But just how did the Pebble Partnership keep 660 eligible voters from voting?
Did they steal voters' mail so they wouldn't have ballots? Did they block the roads to the post office or hide mailboxes? Or maybe, just maybe, people didn't vote because they really didn't care enough to invest the five minutes to check off their ballot and drop it in the mailbox.
But more importantly, violating voting rights is a serious federal offense. Did either of these two, or anyone else who was kept from voting, complain to the Justice Department? The state attorney general? Did they complain to anyone other than the person shooting the commercial? No.
Within weeks a second ad began running, featuring the President of the Pedro Bay Village Council, claiming the Pebble Partnership was 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, the village leader says to the camera.
If this is true why didn't they put the friend in the ad to ensure credibility instead of hearsay? After hearing the news did the Village Council call the proper authorities? You'd think they'd immediately be on the phone to the DNR, DEC and EPA sharing the tales of earthly destruction at Pebble.
And once again, considering the seriousness of these environmental allegations, did they do anything more than record a television advertisement?
These anti-Pebble ads are untrue. They have been designed to appeal to the public's raw emotion rather than the actual facts of the issue.
In a September ruling to a lawsuit filed by anti-Pebble forces claiming a large 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 untruths.
In his lengthy ruling, Judge Aarseth concluded that the anti-Pebble group failed to prove that there was long-term or harmful environmental impacts from Pebble's drilling operations. The judge ruled that there was no evidence of harm to fish, wildlife or subsistence activities. In addition, he concluded that there was no evidence to support the claim that the Pebble Partnership was damaging the environment in the area of their exploration.
These are the facts as a matter of law. Anything else has been proven in court to be hearsay, false allegations and lies propagated by the anti-Pebble forces and their ad man, whose credibility continues to go wanting.
It's more than time for a factual conversation about Pebble.
Andrew Halcro of Anchorage is a former state representative and candidate for governor. He blogs at www.andrewhalcro.com.