Opposing Pebble Mine: Terrorism or Patriotism?

It’s hard not to sense desperation in Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively’s remarks at a conference in Anchorage last week. 

Instead of his usual refrain about the importance of due process for foreign mining companies like Anglo American who want to develop the massive Pebble Mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery, he lashed out, on this occasion, against the “legal terrorism” that, in his view, threatens to cripple resource development in Alaska.  By “legal terrorism,” he was referring apparently to successful lawsuits or to administrative reviews that Congress or the state legislature in Alaska have enacted to protect the public good from those who would exploit it – those who, like the Pebble Partnership, would enrich themselves while impoverishing everyone else.  

I’m not sure how enforcement of our laws has become, in Mr. Shively’s mind, “legal terrorism.”  I thought terrorism involved blowing up buildings and killing innocent people.  Yet, the conduct he described as “terrorism” – that is, pursuing legal remedies through the courts or advocating before legally constituted state and federal agencies – involves none of that.  Their purpose is to ensure that the Pebble Mine won’t be approved in violation of the laws that protect all of us, that essential fisheries will be preserved, and that the overwhelming opposition of Bristol Bay residents to the Pebble Mine will not be ignored. 

Mr. Shively needs to think again.  Given the insanity of the Pebble project – an estimated 10 billion tons of mining waste at the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers -- he may be justifiably worried that his project won’t pass legal muster.  But that doesn’t make those who would enforce the law “terrorists.” 

Protecting the wild salmon fishery that sustains Alaska and its people – and provides food security for the entire country – doesn’t make someone a terrorist.  It makes them a patriot.