U.S. Supreme Court Decision a Victory for Resurrection Bay
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U.S. Supreme Court Decision a Victory for Seward’s Resurrection Bay


June 8, 2015


Pamela Miller, (907) 222-7714 (o); (907) 242-9991 (cell)

Meg Matthews, meg.matthews@sierraclub.org / 206.291.5942

U.S. Supreme Court Decision a Victory for Seward’s Resurrection Bay

Court Declines to Hear Appeal from Companies that Have Dumped Coal into Bay for Decades

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal made by Aurora Energy Services, LLC, and Alaska Railroad Corporation, making it possible for the companies to be held responsible for spilling coal into Resurrection Bay from their Seward-based loading facility. Aurora and Alaska Railroad filed the appeal after a unanimous September 2014 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that Aurora could not use its stormwater discharge permit to dump coal into the bay.

In response, Russ Maddox, longtime Seward resident and Sierra Club volunteer, said:

“It’s no surprise that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Aurora Energy and Alaska Railroad’s appeal. The Seward export terminal could have resolved these issues years ago by installing proper pollution controls. Instead, Aurora and Alaska Railroad have wasted millions of dollars—far more than the controls would have cost in the first place—in a pointless battle to avoid responsibility for dumping coal into Resurrection Bay. Now that they’ve exhausted their options, we hope the companies will be better neighbors and make smarter investments in Seward’s community by cleaning up their mess.”

Pamela Miller, executive director of Alaska Coalition on Toxics, said:

“Now we would like to see Aurora Energy and Alaska Railroad focus their efforts on protecting community and environmental health by preventing pollution into Resurrection Bay  and harmful coal dust emissions.”

For decades, the Seward Coal Export Facility has allowed coal debris to fall unchecked from the conveyor system directly into Resurrection Bay, polluting the water and violating the Clean Water Act. Additionally, coal dust from the facility coats nearby fishing vessels and local neighborhoods, impacting the health of local Alaskans and their natural resources.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the Alaska Chapter of the Sierra Club brought the original action to stop decades of coal pollution that have plagued Seward. Last September, the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court decision and found that Aurora’s existing stormwater discharge permit prohibits dumping coal into the bay from the conveyor. The case was sent back to district court for further proceedings.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the Sierra Club will continue supporting efforts that protect Seward’s public health and water quality.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the Alaska Chapter of the Sierra Club are represented in this matter by attorneys with Trustees for Alaska and with the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program.