President Trump tweeted that there will be "NO POLITICS in the Pebble Mine Review process" just a couple of hours after an advertisement from the mine's backers using the same phrase aired on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show.
The final image of the ad shows the president waving from Air Force One with the words "Stand Tall, No Politics in Pebble Mine Review Process."
In a tweet addressing "wonderful & beautiful Alaska," Trump wrote, "I will do what is right for Alaska and our great Country."
Pebble spokesman Mike Heatwole heralded the tweet as a victory for the company, writing in an email, "We thank President Trump for keeping his word."
"All Pebble has asked for is a fair shake and we look forward to getting our Record of Decision this fall," he wrote.
While the tweet echoes the ad's language, it is unclear if Trump meant to support the extraction project. If so, it would be a reversal from his administration's recent actions on the mine.
In August, he promised to "take a look" at Pebble after his son Donald Trump Jr. publicly opposed the copper and gold extraction project planned for the headwaters of the nation's premier salmon fishery.
Weeks later, the Army Corps of Engineers told Pebble backers that the agency could not permit the mine as proposed and that they would have to draw up new plans to offset the thousands of acres of wetlands that would be destroyed by the mine.
That move was supported by Carlson himself, who opposes the mine. On Friday, he aired his second segment about the project, focusing on jobs that depend on the salmon there and hosting Brian Kraft of Alaska Sportsman's Lodge.
"There would be some mining jobs, but fewer than you think," Carlson said. "The mine, if built, is expected to create jobs only for about 20 years, whereas the damage the mine would cause could last forever."
Carlson told E&E News in August that he did not intend to influence the president by highlighting the mine on his show, but Trump Jr. and other prominent Republicans have worked to convince the president to stop the project (Greenwire, Aug. 24).
Still, this wouldn't be the first time the president has broken from his son on Pebble.
Rumors suggested Trump Jr. could have been behind former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's decision against withdrawing an Obama-era block on the mine, but the president later directed EPA to nix the veto after spending time with Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) on Air Force One.
Alaska's Republican senators — who have repeatedly avoided commenting on the mine's merits in favor of saying the government must do a thorough review — say the federal government is doing its job by rejecting Pebble's current plan.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski has long said the mine would have to meet a "high bar" to show it would not damage the fishing industry. Speaking at an online version of an annual event celebrating Bristol Bay salmon yesterday, Murkowski said the Army Corps' decision showed that the federal government was doing its job in reviewing the mine's environmental impacts.
"For those who have voiced concerns to me and others in the delegation about the process, I think this latest determination by the corps indicates that the process is working as intended," she said.
Sen. Dan Sullivan agreed.
"You can't trade one resource for another, and we had to make sure that the agencies, the federal government, the White House, everybody was listening to Alaskans," he said. "That's the way in which this process was supposed to work."
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