Democratic leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure this week sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Pebble Limited Partnership requesting records related to the Pebble mine.
They say behind-the-scenes discussions raise questions about whether mine executives were being dishonest about the project’s size.
The requests follow the release of the so-called “Pebble Tapes” in September that revealed the now-former head of Pebble, Tom Collier, and Ronald Thiessen, president of Pebble parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals, discussing the project’s ties with federal regulators and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The tapes were recorded and released by a conservation group that secretly hired people to pose as potential investors.
The Corps and Dunleavy’s office, as well as Alaska Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, have dismissed the statements by the executives as untrue.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, chair of the House Transportation Committee, and Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif. and chair of the transportation Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, said in a statement on Friday that the executives’ statements in the tapes contradict information the executives presented to the Corps and the transportation committee.
Collier told the committee last year that they would not try to expand Pebble mine’s size, capacity or duration, the committee said in the statement. Thiessen told the Corps the same.
The acts are “misleading and possibly illegal,” the committee said.
“From the private discussions revealed by the ‘Pebble Tapes,’ it seems as though Pebble was dealing with two sets of facts, one to lure potential investors to the Pebble project and one to alleviate fears of Alaskan Natives, the U.S. Congress and federal agencies of potential adverse environmental impacts from the mine” DeFazio and Napolitano wrote in the letters.
Mike Heatwole, a spokesman with Pebble, said the company is reviewing the request from the House Committee and will be “happy to share a response when we have one.”
He said any future plans for Pebble beyond the proposed 20-year mine plan would need to undergo a new federal and state permitting process. He added that the Corps has evaluated that issue in its environmental review of the project released in July.