On Friday, Dec. 20, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay and Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay released a joint response to a CNN investigative report that accused Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy of collaborating with the Pebble Limited Partnership to lobby on the corporation's behalf.

CNN obtained letters that show "Dunleavy forwarded requests, on behalf of the state of Alaska, that were ghost-written by the Pebble Partnership to the White House, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency asking them to do away with the EPA’s proposed protections for Bristol Bay and to fast track the Army Corps’ environmental assessment," said the joint press release.

The letters indicate also that the Pebble Partnership had advance knowledge of EPA's decision to eliminate the protections. Tom Collier, Pebble Partnership CEO, denied any such knowledge at a U.S. House hearing in October.

“I want to adamantly state that we had no such advance knowledge at all of the decision," Collier said in his testimony to the House Transportation Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. "Nor did we know what the decision was.”

The accusation stemmed from comments from Northern Dynasty shareholders in online forums and trading activity before the decision was made public. Collier stands to win a $12.5 million bonus if Pebble gets its Corps permit within four years of filing. It drops to $7.5 million if it takes six years. The application was filed in December 2017. The Corps is expected to make a decision in 2020.

“I’m troubled also by the recent allegations of insider trading,” said committee member Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.). “I just don’t understand why there’s any other explanation as to why there was such a significant increase in Northern Dynasty’s stock trades shortly before the EPA’s decisions to lift protections for the area.”

Residents and the fishing communities of Bristol Bay have been in a tug of war with the Pebble Partnership for more than a decade. The project has been fast-tracked since Dunleavy's election in 2018.

“Bristol Bay’s fishermen were outraged to learn that Alaska’s own governor has become a puppet for the Pebble Partnership and is willing to betray his fellow Alaskans for Pebble’s benefit," said Katherine Carscallen, director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay and a Bristol Bay resident. "Gov. Dunleavy’s actions put the future well-being and prosperity of Alaska’s fishermen, communities, and businesses at risk. He should be representing his constituents who have repeatedly said that they do not want this mine and that it’s not worth the risk to our salmon and our livelihoods."

"Our elected leaders must stop pretending there is any legitimacy in the current Pebble permitting process and start this process over, so facts and science in the process can be restored," said Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay.

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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