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Murkowski says public needs 30 more days to weigh in on Pebble report

Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking the agency to “immediately" extend a public comment period on a 1,400-page draft report that could lead to the development of the Pebble copper and gold prospect in Bristol Bay.

“Acting now is important given the length and complexity of the (draft report) and the need to ensure that the thousands of Alaskans who have followed this project closely can provide meaningful feedback on it,” Murkowski said in her letter to Col. Phillip Borders, the Corps’ Alaska district commander.

Murkowski wants the Corps to add 30 days to the current 90-day comment period scheduled to run through May 30. She said she recently completed her own review of the report.

Following the public comment period, the Corps is expected to release a final environmental review leading to a final decision next year. The Corps may deny a permit, or select a development alternative.

Sen. Dan Sullivan has also met with Borders to express his concerns that the comment period for the large, complex project may be too short.

John Budnik, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Wednesday that the agency will weigh “all requests" about the length of the comment period. The agency has until May 30 to decide on an extension, he said.

In a prepared statement, Pebble Limited Partnership said the company “fundamentally disagrees” with the call for an extension.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers established a comment window that is twice the norm for a resource project and we commend them for that. Further, all of Alaska’s major trade and industry groups support the 90-day public comment review as more than adequate and have expressed serious reservations about the implications for future resource projects by extending comment periods beyond the norm,” Pebble said.

“Unfortunately, all that happens through a comment window extension is allowing national environmental organizations to flood the ballot box and continue to raise money through opposing resource projects in Alaska.”

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