Murkowski asks for longer Pebble comment period

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (File photo by Skip Gray, 360 North)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski sent a letter today asking the federal government to extend the comment period for the proposed Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay region.

The current 90-day public comment period ends on May 30. The senator wants the Army Corps of Engineers to give the public an additional 30 days to weigh in.

Murkowski wrote that the extension is needed “given the length and complexity” of the corps’ environmental impact statement for the mine proposal.

“I make this request for this proposed project as an exception to my general view about the appropriate length of comment periods for EISs under the National Environmental Policy Act,” Murkowski wrote.

She also asked the agency to “redouble” its efforts “to engage in meaningful consultation” with Alaska Natives in the Bristol Bay region.

Many of Pebble’s opponents also have asked for a longer comment period.

In March, the Associated Press reported that the corps project manager handling the permit application said it had not received a strong reason to extend the comment period.

On Wednesday afternoon, corps spokesperson John Budnik said the agency is aware of the senator’s letter but had not yet received an official copy.

“We have taken unprecedented steps to ensure that the public has access to all the information that we have received from the applicant and that information is available for public review as close to real time as we can manage,” Budnik said.

He added, “we carefully scheduled the public comment period to reflect input we received from rural communities and tribes regarding their availability to participate in the public process.”

But Budnik said the agency hasn’t yet made a final decision on whether to extend the comment period, noting it has until May 30 to do so.