Corps sees no reason now to extend Pebble comment period
An official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday that the agency has not received any compelling reason to extend the 90-day comment period on a draft environmental review of a major mine project in southwest Alaska.
Shane McCoy is project manager for the corps' review of the Pebble Limited Partnership's permit application. The Pebble partnership wants to develop a gold-and-copper mine near a major salmon fishery in Alaska's Bristol Bay region.
McCoy told reporters that while 45 days is standard for such reviews, the corps decided 90 days was appropriate for the Pebble project given the nature of the project and level of interest in it.
The corps has received requests to extend the 90-day period and is considering those, but so far it has not received a strong reason for an extension, he said. The corps also has received comments saying 90 days is sufficient, he said.
Critics of the project have criticized the substance of the review and say the process has been rushed. When the draft review was released last month, Pebble partnership CEO Tom Collier said the partnership saw "no significant environmental challenges that would preclude the project from getting a permit."
McCoy said the draft review is not a rubber stamp of the project. If there's evidence contrary to what the corps' draft analysis shows, "absolutely provide it to us and allow us to use that to inform a revision if necessary," he said.
A spokesman for the Pebble partnership said the project will need dozens of permits, approvals and authorizations as it seeks to advance.
Last month, Republican U.S. Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski questioned the adequacy of the 90-day comment period.
Bristol Bay Native Corp., the regional Native corporaiton which formally opposes the Pebble project, has insisted upon a 270-day comment period, as have other area Native and fishing organizations.
Sullivan spokesman Mike Anderson said by email Wednesday that Sullivan's comments stand, but he did not respond to questions on whether Sullivan had formally requested a longer comment period.
Representatives for Murkowski did not immediately respond to an email asking her position on the 90-day period.
Journal reporter Elwood Brehmer contributed to this report.