New Pebble tapes: ‘You aren’t held to your promises’ in election season, mine exec says

Ron Thiessen, CEO of Pebble’s parent company, was secretly recorded talking to men he thought were investors. (Still from EIA video)

The environmental group that captured executives of the Pebble Mine bragging about their sway over Alaska’s senators and governor has released new footage from those secretly recorded sessions.

On one, the head of Pebble’s parent company, Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen, tells the men posing as investors that they don’t have to worry about any statements politicians make during the election season.

“It’s the kind of season, once it’s over, everybody forgets what everybody promised to do,” Thiessen said in a session recorded Aug. 17. “You aren’t held to your promises.”

Thiessen did not specify whose promises aren’t reliable. He spoke a few days before both Alaska senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, issued statements agreeing with an Army press release saying the Army Corps of Engineers could not issue a permit for the application Pebble submitted.

The initial batch of recordings the group Environmental Investigation Agency released in September has been in heavy rotation in political ads — particularly those promoting challenger Al Gross, who is trying to unseat Sullivan.

Representatives from the Sullivan and Gross campaigns weren’t immediately available to discuss what implications the new releases might have on the final days of the race.

Danielle Grabiel, a team leader of Environmental Investigation Agency, said the new releases are from the same recordings made in August and September. She said EIA is trying to get more information out to influence the permitting decision, not the election.

“We are a conservation organization, and we’re not a political organization,” she said. “It wasn’t our decision to make politics part of this irreversible (permitting) decision, but clearly the tapes show that politics has been at play.”

Pebble CEO Tom Collier was forced to resign after the first tapes came out. The company disavowed the political strategies he spoke of on the tapes. But Grabiel said Thiessen should be held to account, too.

“It’s striking to us that he remains at the helm of these companies as these companies are pushing for this project,” she said. “Tom Collier, you know, resigned and it seems to us that he was a bit of a sacrificial lamb.”

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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