More Pebble News: Alaska Brief Newsletter – June 2015
We all have big news to celebrate! In a one-two-three punch to the proposed Pebble Mine project, three court decisions were issued in just two days. The decisions are big setbacks for Pebble.
Trustees for Alaska and our clients Nunamta Aulukestai, Ricky Delkittie, Sr., Bella Hammond, Violet Willson, and Vic Fischer brought the first case, which took the fight to Pebble rather than waiting for momentum to build for issuing development permits for the project. The case challenged decades of intensive exploration activities at the Pebble Project. And we won!
The Alaska Supreme Court unanimously reversed the trial judge’s decision and reinforced the rights of Alaskans to participate in the decision making process for mining exploration permits. DNR can no longer rubber stamp exploration permits.
Secondly, the court issued a decision squashing the attempt by the State of Alaska and Pebble to recover attorneys’ fees and strengthening the constitutional right of citizens to make legal challenges in the public interest without fear of bankruptcy. While it took quite a while for the court to issue these decisions, they were well worth the wait.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also made a quick decision to uphold the lower court’s decision to dismiss Pebble’s lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act as premature. This decision was issued May 28, 2015, just nine working days after oral argument was heard before the three-judge panel.
In another Pebble case challenging EPA, oral argument was held May 28th before a US District Court judge regarding Pebble’s contention that EPA colluded with anti-mine interests, violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act in the development of the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. Unfortunately, the judge did not dismiss the case. That is a procedural decision, however, which has no bearing on whether Pebble’s claims have merit. We will continue to monitor and engage in this case during the discovery phase to defend EPA’s transparent and science-driven efforts to protect Bristol Bay.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received more than 7,500 public comments in favor of the water reservation applications Trustees for Alaska filed on behalf of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. DNR is holding an adjudicatory hearing on the applications and will allow testimony from those groups that filed objections. The hearing is scheduled for August 21, 2015, with a final decision scheduled to be announced in October.
In other Chuitna news, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently released a proposed Clean Air Act permit for the mine for public comment. Trustees for Alaska submitted comments on behalf of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inletkeeper. The comments identified flaws in the technical analysis of the permitting materials, and asked DEC to require PacRim to redo their estimates of how much pollution the mine will emit. DEC will likely make a decision on whether to issue the permit or to require the requested analysis by the end of the summer.
Obama Protects Waters
Last month we reported on Trustees for Alaska’s testimony at a congressional hearing on the proposed rule defining Waters of the United States. On May 27th, President Obama announced a sweeping new clean water regulation meant to restore the federal government’s authority to limit pollution into the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands. Using his executive authority, Obama’s new rule clarifies confusion following two Supreme Court decisions related to the Clean Water Act. The new rule makes clear the federal government has the authority to limit pollution in smaller bodies of water.
Read all the stories in June, 2015 – Environmental Newsletter