Austerman Pushes Pebble Study

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Jacob Resneck/KMXT

Kodiak Republican House Majority Leader Alan Austerman says he’s not giving up on a state-funded effort to study the potential impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine near Iliamna Lake.

Three-quarters of a million dollars was appropriated last year by the legislature to conduct an independent study. But those funds have languished as lawmakers have failed to decide how best to approach the study. If it’s not allocated by the end of the session it could revert to the general fund.

Austerman says lawmakers are continuing to debate whether to put the study out to bid through a request for proposal – an R-F-P – or have it done by the National Academy of Sciences which he says he would be more objective.

— pebble 1 :33 "If you put it out … they’re set out to do."

The Anchorage Daily News reported last Sunday that the Pebble Partnership spent more last year to lobby the state legislature than any other group. The newspaper cites public records that show the group laid down about $378,000 for the services of four professional lobbyists in Juneau. Austerman says the partnership’s lobbyists maintain a visible presence and are working to block the study.

— pebble 2 :12 "Well they have their … study going forward."

He says it’s not clear why exactly the Pebble Partnership is so opposed to an independent study conducted on behalf of the state.

— pebble 3 :26 "I’m not sure … fight against it."

The Pebble deposit has been touted as one of the largest gold and copper deposits ever discovered. Proponents say it could enrich the state while opponents fear runoff from an open-pit mine would imperil Bristol Bay’s lucrative sockeye salmon runs.

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