April 2010 Alaska Brief Newsletter
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April 2010 Legal Brief

Dear Friend,

Trustees for Alaska works strategically to address some of the most important environmental issues affecting Alaska. We represent a wide range of clients from native villages, community and citizen groups, local and national conservation groups, statewide coalitions, hunting and fishing groups, as well as individual Alaskans. Please read on to learn more about some of our current work.

Update: EPA Withdraws Challenged Red Dog Permit Limits Last month Trustees for Alaska filed an appeal of the EPA Clean Water Act permit for the Red Dog Mine that significantly related toxic release limits for lead, zinc, and cyanide, as well as total dissolved solids and ammonia. On March 17, 2010, the EPA formally withdrew the five challenged effluent limits of the new water pollution discharge permit for the Red Dog Mine. With those limits withdrawn, Red Dog must comply with the more stringent limits in its previous permit, which Teck Alaska, Inc., the mine operator, claims it cannot meet. This initial victory in the appeal validates the claims that EPA cannot allow unjustified relaxation of permit limits. Trustees for Alaska will, however, continue the appeal to ensure that the proper process is followed and that pollution at Red Dog is kept to a minimum.

Pebble Limited Partnership Violates Water Use Permits

In February the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) settled with Pebble Limited Partnership for 45 violations to its temporary water use permits, in which they agreed to pay $45,000 in penalties. DNR stated that the settlement followed an investigation that began after the Pebble Partnership reported using water from unauthorized locations in November.

What DNR and Pebble did not reveal to the press was that Trustees for Alaska had informed DNR in March, September and October that illegal water use was occurring during Pebble’s exploration activities. Trustees for Alaska provided the information as part of our constitutional lawsuit against DNR brought on behalf of Nunamta Aulukestai; Ricky Delkittie, Sr.; Violet Willson; Bella Hammond; and Victor Fischer. Yet, DNR took no action at the time to investigate or prosecute those violations reported by the citizens of the region who depend upon that same water for subsistence.

DNR also failed to reveal that Pebble and its predecessors had illegally used water for many years. Hundreds of millions of gallons of water were used at the Pebble Project from 1988-2006, with no water use permits at all and no DNR oversight or investigation. State agencies began making site visits to inspect Pebble’s operations in 2007, yet DNR, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game did not document or even investigate Pebble’s illegal water use violations during their inspections because they were focused on other matters.

Recently, John Shively, CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, gave a talk to the Resource Development Council. In that presentation, Mr. Shively singled out Trustees for Alaska as one of the leading threats to resource development in Alaska, highlighting some of our recent cases, including the constitutional challenge involving Pebble. He also complained about the stranglehold that regulations have on development.

Despite Mr. Shively’s dissatisfaction with the regulatory situation, the Alaska Board of Fisheries has asked the Alaska Legislature to conduct an independent and comprehensive review of State permitting processes, standards and regulations and to safeguard subsistence, personal use, short-hunting and fishing on State lands in the Bristol Bay region. The review is under serious consideration by the Legislature. Such a review should shine a light on the inadequacies of the permitting process.

As it stands, the public cannot trust DNR to do its job to protect the public’s resources. The State claims that they can protect the salmon resources of Bristol Bay, but Pebble’s permit violations may never have been discovered if not for the lawsuit filed by Trustees for Alaska. The public’s resources deserve better, and Trustees for Alaska will continue to fight to protect those resources.


Read the full April 2010 Alaska Brief Newsletter