90-day comment period for Pebble mine review is inadequate, Sullivan says

JUNEAU - U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said a 90-day comment period is inadequate for a draft environmental review of a large copper and gold mine near the headwaters of a major Alaska fishery.

"It's a very legitimate request from my perspective to have more time to do the due diligence on a project of this size," the Republican Sullivan told reporters Thursday, noting he would likely make a formal request for additional time.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday released the draft that lays out development alternatives for the proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska's Bristol Bay region, including a no-development option.

For years, the project has been the subject of heated debate and, at times, litigation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said the Bristol Bay watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.

Critics of the project called the corps' review rushed and superficial.

Tom Collier, CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, which wants to develop the mine, said the partnership sees "no significant environmental challenges that would preclude the project from getting a permit."

Before the draft's release, the leaders of several organizations had asked the corps to consider at least a 270-day comment period.


Meanwhile, Sullivan also said he supports President Donald Trump's efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, calling the situation a crisis.

He said two avenues cited by the White House would involve use of funds from a federal asset forfeiture fund and U.S. Defense Department anti-drug efforts. He said he had been working with White House "at senior levels, saying, 'You should use these. Use these. You don't have to declare a national emergency.' "

He said he didn't think an emergency declaration was needed because of the resources those two options would provide, in addition to the roughly $1.4 billion that Congress recently approved for border barriers.

Sullivan, who faces re-election next year, spoke to reporters after giving his annual address to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature. Such speeches are tradition for Alaska’s U.S. senators.

Becky Bohrer, Associated Press

Becky Bohrer is a reporter for the Associated Press based in Juneau.