Sen. Sullivan says Pebble can’t shake his opposition to mine; pledges to ‘continue to monitor’

Sen. Dan Sullivan at a podium with a microphone and American flag
Sen. Dan Sullivan in Anchorage in August 2019. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan says his newly proclaimed opposition to the Pebble Mine will endure, no matter how the company plans to compensate for the environmental damage the project would cause.

In the final phase before issuing its decision on a permit for the mine, the Army Corps of Engineers has asked the mine developers to submit a mitigation plan to make up for the damage the project would cause

Talk of Alaska host Lori Townsend asked Sullivan during the call-in show on Tuesday what his position would be if the mine developers draft a good plan to mitigate environmental damage.

“Could they possibly win your support with that?” she asked.

“No,” Sullivan said. “No.”

Sullivan’s unequivocal opposition to the mine is new. Last month, an environmental group released secretly recorded tapes of Pebble executives bragging that Sullivan wouldn’t cause any trouble.

“So I think that’s our plan to work with him is: leave him alone and let him be quiet,” said Tom Collier, Pebble’s CEO at the time, who has since resigned.

In response, Sullivan took his most definitive stand against the controversial project. “No Pebble Mine,” he tweeted.

A listener from Nunam Iqua on Tuesday asked Sullivan if he would do more.

“As a senator you have real power to take action beyond Twitter,” she said. “So what will you do to shut down Pebble?”

Sullivan didn’t specify any actions he would take other than “monitoring closely” and “continue to play the role that I have had.”

“The process, in my view, has run its course, and I’m going to continue to monitor it and if the Corps doesn’t follow through on its job, then the EPA should,” he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency has the power to veto a Clean Water Act permit if the Corps of Engineers decides to grant one.

Sullivan said he hasn’t seen an amendment from the House that would block funding to finalize Pebble’s permit. He also says he hadn’t read Sen. Maria Cantwell’s call last week for an investigation into whether Pebble’s CEO lied to Congress about the planned size of the mine.

Both Alaska senators have now said there’s not much they can do to stop Pebble.

On the tapes, Pebble’s CEO said Sen. Lisa Murkowski could have killed the mine by allowing the House anti-funding amendment to pass into law. She disputes that.

“You have to work with other people,” she said last month. “And you can make something happen to the extent that you’ve got the votes and the ability to make it.”

A raft of listeners asked about Sullivan’s coronavirus exposure, since he’s been photographed in crowded rooms without a mask. Sullivan says he tries to abide by CDC guidelines and state mandates, and he’s tested often.

“Even at the political campaign events that we’ve done, you know, for the re-election, I try to wear masks and make sure others who participate do as well,” he said.

The photo of him at a fundraiser in Homer this weekend doesn’t tell the whole story, he said.

The photo shows dozens of Republicans standing shoulder to shoulder, facing the camera. No masks are obvious.

Sullivan said there was one in his hand and that he wore it most of the night.