Washington senator says Congress should block Pebble’s permit

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. (Sen. Cantwell’s office)

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell says she’ll support a bill to block a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska. The Washington state Democrat is also calling for an investigation into whether Pebble’s CEO lied to Congress about the project.

Cantwell’s announcement Tuesday is more fallout from the undercover operation an environmental group ran that targeted Pebble executives. Pebble CEO Tom Collier resigned last week after the group released tapes of Collier and the CEO of Pebble’s parent company bragging about their political pull to men they thought were investors.

RELATED: Pebble execs tell ‘investors’ Murkowski and Sullivan are no barrier to controversial mine

The executives also spoke of the mine as a 200-year project. Pebble’s permit application is for 20 years. Cantwell wants the Justice Department to investigate whether Collier committed perjury when he told a House committee last year that “Pebble has no current plans, in this application or in any other way, for expansion.”

Collier and other Pebble representatives have said any future expansion would require new permits, which Collier also said on the secretly recorded tapes.

If the Corps of Engineers issues a wetlands permit, Pebble would be built on state land that is upstream from Bristol Bay.  The mine proposal is extremely unpopular among commercial fishermen of Bristol Bay, including many who are Cantwell’s constituents.

House Democrats have proposed to block Pebble’s permit in a pending appropriations bill.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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