Bad Bill of the Week:  Peltola’s Pebble Policy

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The best and worst bills of the week for Alaska come from the U.S. House of Representatives – with Representative Peltola’s name on both.

We appreciate Representative Peltola being the only democrat to co-sponsor the best bill of the week   – Alaska’s Right to Produce Act of 2023.   A bill that would reverse the Biden administration’s decision to block 13 million acres of public land in Alaska from oil and gas drilling. The bill passed the house this week.

Representative Peltola has been a champion of many Alaska resource development projects, so it is unfortunate that the bad bill of the week also has her support.

The bad bill of the week – Bristol Bay Protection Act – is sponsored by Representative Peltola. The  bill would strengthen the EPA’s preemptive veto last year of the Pebble project by giving that decision the full force of federal law.

Putting a preemptive veto of a project into law is horrible policy. What else can we say? Slippery slope? Camel’s nose under the tent?  

Peltola reverts to pro-fish stance with a new anti-Pebble Mine bill and a surprise vote on Alaska drilling 
Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media, May 2, 2024

The U.S. House has passed a bill that would remove obstacles the Biden administration imposed on oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic. 

Alaska Congresswoman Mary Peltola was the only Democrat among the bill’s co-sponsors. She voted for the bill in the House Resources Committee. But, in a surprise move, she declined to vote for it Wednesday on the House floor.

“I still support the bill’s intent,” she said before voting “present” on the legislation, called Alaska’s Right to Produce Act.

The bill would reinstate oil leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and nullify a new rule to enhance environmental protections in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Peltola likes those aspects. She said Alaska needs to develop energy projects for its economic well-being, and it will need natural gas as a bridge to renewable sources. But, she said, the bill would also erase a designation called the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.

The designation, created during the Obama administration, gives regional tribes a greater voice in what happens in that section of ocean, particularly on marine traffic and federal decisions that affect the ecosystem. 

The Biden administration reinstated the Northern Bering Sea designation in a multipurpose executive order. The bill the House passed Wednesday would strike down that order. Peltola said she never intended that part of the order to be reversed.

“By nullifying this Area, we are breaking our promise to tribes and directly harming fishing communities,” she said.

She tried to amend the bill but couldn’t, so she voted “present.” The episode is one of several recent situations that illustrate the difficult line Peltola walks as a red-state Democrat running for re-election, as a supporter of both energy production and a champion of salmon. 

Last week, to the dismay of fish advocates on the Kuskokwim River, she added her name to a legal brief defending the development of the Donlin Creek Gold Mine. It was her second reversal on the project. She’d worked for Donlin for years, then renounced her support, and as a candidate, opposed the  mine. Her new defense of Donlin has some subsistence advocates saying they feel betrayed.

But further south, in the Bristol Bay region, Peltola had fishermen and mine opponents singing her praises for sponsoring a bill Wednesday to block the proposed Pebble Mine.