Nipping Jobs in the Bud

As the American economy continues to stumble along, a few bright spots have appeared in the otherwise dim employment picture. The mining and extraction industries are among those bright spots, despite environmentalists’ best efforts to shut them down. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mining and logging industries have added over 150,000 jobs over the past year — roughly 10 percent of the nation’s net job growth during that time.

Resource-intensive industries could provide even more jobs — if they were allowed to. Environmental activists have helped to stop or delay projects around the country: uranium mining outside of the Grand Canyon, offshore oil drilling in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, coal mining in West Virginia, and, most notably, the Keystone XL Pipeline.

These are just a few examples. Countless other projects linger. Each of those projects could bring much-needed jobs for American workers. Furthermore, these types of jobs often pay very well, as the median salary in the mining industry is over $50,000 per year. That seems to matter little to green activists.

The latest environmentalist campaign is now being waged against the proposed Pebble Mine project in Alaska. Like other campaigns against drilling and mining projects, this relies on hysterical claims aimed at scaring people into opposing the project. Opponents have convinced Alaskan natives and people involved in the salmon industry that waste from the Pebble mine will pose an unacceptable threat to the Bristol Bay salmon population.

The salmon industry is a vital part of Alaska’s economy, so protecting it from pollutants is a worthwhile endeavor. However, it is far from clear that the Pebble mine would have any sort of significant impact on Bristol Bay, which is roughly 100 miles away from the proposed mine’s location. Nonetheless, this is why the Pebble Partnership, the principal entity developing the project, is spending millions of dollars to finance an EPA-sponsored environmental assessment of the mine, which is now underway.

Yet environmental activists have urged the EPA to preemptively deny a permit for the Pebble Mine before it has even been applied for. To support this absurd proposition they rely on environmentalists masquerading as objective scientists, who produce reports that environmental advocacy groups then use to frighten the public in order to gain support for their cause.

Consider a report being used to discredit the idea that waste from the mine can be effectively contained. One of the authors is Dr. Ann Maest, a geoscientist known for her consulting work on behalf of organizations that oppose mining and oil drilling. Just a few months ago, she was caught on camera with a trial lawyer, apparently working out a plan to manufacture evidence of pollution for a lawsuit by the government of Ecuador against Chevron. She remains silent as a lawyer comments that the scientific report they have been working on is “just a bunch of smoke and mirrors and bull-****.”

Astonishingly, this “scientist” regularly provides consulting work for the government — including regarding Pebble — and is a member in good standing of the National Academy of Sciences. Can you imagine the outrage if the situation was reversed, and industry leaders were caught covering up evidence of scientific harm from pollution?

Environmentalists are currently trumpeting a poll that shows that on average, more people oppose the project than support it, when informed about the alleged environmental risks. Yet one can only wonder what the public might think of Pebble if they were told that the environmental risks are deemed manageable by the EPA.

Resource extraction has always, and will always, be an important part of the U.S. economy. And it will always carry risks, which our nation has a good record of managing prudently. If President Obama wants to take credit for creating hundreds of thousands of jobs — many overnight — in the resource extraction industries, he should ignore environmentalists’ pleas.

Brian McGraw is a policy analyst with the Center for Energy & Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and writes for CEI’s newest blog: