|Sedimentary layers show evidence of liquefaction – perhaps caused by strong earthquake shaking|
In a blog entry posted Saturday, Confessions of an Earthquake Detective, Higman raises serious questions, most of which remain unanswered by the Pebble Partnership, the State of Alaska or the Federal agencies responsible for assessment of the risks at the site.
Higman has been writing about his concern on earthquake risk for some time. So far none of his conclusions have been faulted (only slight pun intended) in any meaningful ways.
In his Saturday post, Higman cuts to the chase regarding the credibility of the Partnership [emphasis added]:
PLP must either be strategically holding back information, or else it lacks the expertise to do a real seismic hazard assessment.
Put crudely: Either PLP is lying, or it’s incompetent.I know from experience that Bretwood Higman is one of the most tenacious and thorough Alaskans in existence. Here's his summation of yesterday's article [emphasis added]:
Honestly I don’t really understand how scientific results inform regulatory decisions, but what I’ve seen so far does not make me confident. It’s very easy to fail to find evidence. The mine company has financial incentives to overlook evidence of earthquake risk, just as I have financial motivation beyond merely curiosity to find that evidence – my funding comes from groups opposed to mine development. And regulators, ideally the impartial party here, have tight budgets and a broad mandate, thus little time to focus deeply on a difficult scientific problem like this. Tackling this problem would put government scientists into a political minefield that they may not wish to enter.
This year we’ve seen “the system” attempting to face the scientific challenges presented by the massive scale of Pebble Mine. The EPA, on the invitation of villages in the region, conducted a detailed “Watershed Assessment,” which is still under peer review. PLP criticized the EPA’s effort as premature and misguided, and pushed its own process, the PLP-funded Keystone Center dialogue. This in turn has been criticized for its biased exclusion of non-PLP science, among other things.
Though I submitted my own work on seismic hazards, it was not considered even during the panel specifically on this topic. These efforts represent attempts to assemble expert assessments and critique PLP‘s science, but we’re a long way off from seeing concrete results from either. Though I’ve repeatedly pointed out unequivocal flaws in PLP‘s seismic hazard assessment, there was no acknowledgment of these issues as of the Keystone meeting in early October. If you want to see my testimony, you can go here, and skip to 17 minutes, 40 seconds.You can donate directly to Dr. Higman's efforts HERE.
So I’m going to stick to it. I have more data analysis, and a paper to write and submit for peer review. And hopefully I’ll have funding to get back into the field this summer.
Here he is, last year, presenting some of his findings: