What others say: Bad form by House speaker

  • By Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Editorial
  • Monday, September 4, 2017 9:26am
  • Opinion

One of the jobs of being an elected official is that you are supposed to meet with people — even those with whom you have profound disagreement.

An elected official can make it clear that he or she won’t be swayed by whatever it is that someone might want to say about a subject. Even so, there may exist on some subjects the possibility that someone might actually have information that could change the elected official’s mind.

Regardless, courtesy dictates that the elected official hear out the person or group of people, even if it is about a controversial project that the elected official opposes and that is proposed for the elected official’s legislative district.

Rejecting an invitation to meet about such a project would be inappropriate.

And yet that is what Rep. Bryce Edgmon, Democrat of Dillingham, did in refusing to meet with a new advisory committee put together by the Pebble Partnership, the entity pressing ahead with efforts to develop an enormous open pit copper and gold mine in the headwaters region of salmon-rich Bristol Bay, which is within his district.

Worse, Rep. Edgmon also is the speaker of the House, the leader of the majority in the chamber. As such, he had an even higher obligation to meet with the committee.

The issue erupted recently when the Pebble advisory committee decided it wanted to meet with opponents of the proposed mine. Invitations were sent to many people, including Rep. Edgmon, to attend the committee’s first meeting. They didn’t attend. Instead, they spat verbally on the invitation and opted to stage a protest rally outside the meeting.

“To members of the Pebble advisory committee: Thanks, but no thanks,” began the snarky column published Aug. 19 in the Alaska Dispatch News and signed by Ralph Andersen, CEO of Bristol Bay Native Association; Robert Heyano, president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay; Brian Kraft, president of Katmai Service Providers; Myrtice Noden, executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai; Robin Samuelson, president of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.; Norm Van Vactor, CEO of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.; Nelli Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited — and by the speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, Rep. Edgmon.

“Bristol Bay has thought this over for a long time, and we have long since made up our minds: Pebble mine is not welcome here. The discussion is over,” the column continues. “It is an utter waste of your time, and ours, to sit down and discuss how to build a ‘better’ mine in Bristol Bay. That’s because our region does not want a Pebble mine in any size, form or configuration.”

That’s not very speaker-like talk by the speaker of the House.

No question the Pebble Mine is one of the most controversial resource-extraction proposals Alaska has seen in many years.

The Environmental Protection Agency, during the Obama administration, blocked development of the Pebble Mine, citing its significant risk to the Bristol Bay fishery. The Pebble Partnership then sued the EPA, alleging collusion between the Obama-era EPA and the mine’s opponents, though the agency’s inspector general later determined none existed. Earlier this year, and with a friendlier administration in the White House, the EPA reversed itself as part of a court settlement and will now allow the Pebble Partnership to proceed with the permitting process.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said at the time the agency “will provide Pebble a fair process” and that “We are committed to listening to all voices as this process unfolds.”

That’s something House Speaker Edgmon should have done — and should do — regarding Pebble Mine.

Whether Pebble is ultimately good or bad for Alaska is something Alaskans will have to decide. Even with public sentiment against the mine, as it seems to be, the project’s proponents deserve a fair hearing — from government agencies and from elected officials.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

Aug. 30

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