Pebble petitioners use aggressive tactics to solicit signatures for questionable petition

Lex Treinen/Sun Star Reporter
September 20, 2012

Dozens of students, staff, visitors and faculty felt they were misled and pressured into signing a petition funded by the Pebble Project. Students and others report having been aggressively solicited for signatures on the mornings of Monday, Sept. 17 and Tuesday, Sept. 18.  Passersby were approached around the Rasmuson Library and Gruening Building by three men and asked to sign a petition that they were told would ensure that an environmental review would take place before a mine at the Pebble site can be built. The petition was actually paid for by the Pebble Partnership and supports allowing Pebble to complete a permitting process before the Environmental Protection Agency takes any action.

The signature gatherers were paid $2.50 per signature with a bonus after 500 signatures, according to a craigslist.org employment ad for a signature collector job dated Aug. 16. Though the advertisement does not specify what organization the potential employee would be working for, Nance Larsen, the Communication Manager of the Pebble project confirmed that the telephone number listed on the ad was associated with their organization. No one at this number has answered or returned calls from the Sun Star.

It is still unclear how the 33-word petition titled “Stand up for Alaska” will be used. According to Larsen, its use is “to be determined,” but she said it is not a ballot initiative. In an email, Larsen wrote that the “petition is not in support nor opposition to the proposed mine.” She also wrote that “it is simply a statement that projects should have the right to a fair evaluation,” even though the text of the petition refers only to the Pebble Project.

Sometime Tuesday morning, Heather Benz, an adjunct faculty began posting posters around the same area urging those opposed to  the Pebble Project who had signed the petition and believed it to be in their interest, to ask to get their name removed from the petition. The posters stated that “by signing the petition, you give Pebble the right to use their money to get the numbers they want (and need) in order to destroy the most important salmon run in the world.” The actual petition does not specify who would be in charge of environmental studies.

Benz had been approached by the signature gatherers earlier on Monday as she exited the Gruening building and was pushed to sign the petition. “It was just like used car salesmen,” she said. When she continued speaking with one of the petitioners, Benz read the petition and discovered they were financed by Pebble Partnership. Benz proceeded to cross out her name from the list of signatures. She went into her class and asked her students whether they had signed the petition and whether they were in support of or against Pebble. Though only one was pro-Pebble, many students had signed the petition. Benz decided that many had been misled and decided to post the anti-petition ads. “I was really pissed off,” she said.

One female student who did not wish to be named because of the personal stress she said the ordeal had caused her, decided to call Pebble Partnership and asked that her name be removed. The office, which is located in Anchorage, was not immediately sure whether they had petition gatherers in working Fairbanks, but eventually confirmed that the Partnership had paid for the gathering. They promised to remove the student’s name from the petition.

Other students did not pursue the matter, even though they believed they had been misled and did not wish to have their names on the petition. The anti-petition posters urging people to remove their names did not indicate whom to contact until Thursday morning, when someone hand-wrote a number to call.

According to Political Science Professor Dr. Gerald McBeath, it is the responsibility of the signer to inform themselves as to what they are signing. “Students usually don’t read what they are signing– I usually don’t read what I am signing,” he said. Mcbeath added that though he was not approached, his wife was, but she decided not to sign it based on what she felt were overly aggressive solicitation tactics. According to Larsen, such petitioning is common on both sides of such issues.

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4 Responses

  1. Emma says:

    I was solicited today by one such PP employee today outside Carrs Aurora Village in Anchorage around 1:00 pm exclaiming Pebble Project deserved a fair permitting process. I politely asked who was funding the signature collection efforts and he answered truthfully, “Pebble.” Then I asked him to name of the corporation that was attempting to mine. He answered, “Northern Dynasty.” I was impressed he knew a name, understanding that Anglo American is currently also involved in the partnership. Finally I asked him what the corporate environmental safety mining record was wherever the company had mined and he admitted, “Not very good.” I said, “Exactly. That’s why I will not sign your petition.”

    For those of you needing more detail, Glenn Miller reports in the Anchorage Daily News November 24th, 2008 09:10 PM, “From a Nevada perspective, Anglo American’s record is not good. For years, the largest single source of mercury air pollution in the United States was the Jerritt Canyon gold mine in northern Nevada, which Anglo American owned through a subsidiary… The very large waste rock dumps at Jerritt Canyon, as well as Anglo’s closed Big Springs Mine, are both releasing large quantities of sulfate and other contaminants into surface water, with no end in sight to this contamination. The releases exceed discharge standards for surface water, but Anglo has never been compelled to clean up these sources. They sold this problem to the next owner, Queenstake, but the problems created under Anglo’s stewardship remain. Queenstake has now been purchased by another company, Yukon-Nevada Gold Corp., which apparently has run into financial problems. It has recently shut down the Jerritt Canyon mine and most of the employees are gone. While the site does have a closure bond, the problems at the site, particularly the tailings facility and mercury issues, have not been addressed in a systematic manner. Without a clear plan on closure, nobody can ensure that the bond is sufficient to truly remediate the site.”

    Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2008/11/24/600727/anglo-americans-record-doesnt.html#storylink=cpy” Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2008/11/24/600727/anglo-americans-record-doesnt.html#storylink=cpy

  2. Petla noden says:

    I was collecting “pledges to oppose pebble mine” with explicit language and a clear message to signers when I saw my fellow classmate at the transit center collecting signatures of some sort so i went to sign. Upon reading i thought he was working for the same cause but as i read further I understood that it was designed to decieve people into signing. I told him that it was a pro pebble petition. He said he doesnt know much about it but that he should call and ask questions as to what it would do. He said people were signing and saying, “oh heck with that pebble, it will destroy the fishery”. And that he was getting paid 250 per signature so he would not stop to explain that it was acually a pro pebble petition. I told him that it was desceptive and that he should do something about it from the inside. He just said he needed the money. I was sad. of course i didnt sign his but he did sign mine, as he himself knows pebble will destroy the fishery in bristol Bay.

  3. Kthunder says:

    What number do I call to remove my name from the petition?

  4. Lex Treinen says:

    (907) 339-2600

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