June 2014

24 June 2014

"Bristol Bay Forever" initiative to appear on ballots Nov. 4

A public initiative that has been challenged all the way to the Alaska State Supreme Court will make its way onto the November 4 ballot, per this Supreme Court order. If passed, the "Bristol Bay Forever" initiative, referenced in the order as "12BBAY," would "require legislative approval of any large-scale metallic sulfide mining operation within the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve, or which has the potential to adversely affect any anadromous waters within the reserve." 

Public signatures were gathered in 2012 to put the initiative on the ballot, and the petition application was certified as valid by the Lieutenant Governor. Eighteen months of legal challenges followed, with Richard Hughes, the Alaska Miners Association and the Council of Alaska Producers contending that the initiative violates the Alaska State Constitution on three counts.

Yesterday's expedited decision allows ballots to be prepared with the initiative included. A written opinion explaining the decision will be released at a future date.

Learn More:

Article: Alaska Supreme Court Clears Bristol Bay Initiative for Ballot (APRN, June 23, 2014)

Document: Supreme Court Order

Document: "Bristol Bay Forever" initiative


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12 June 2014

News Roundup: June 16

Recent news regarding the development of the proposed Pebble mine includes a new deposit acquisition in Bristol Bay for Northern Dynasty Minerals, and a hearing over the public initiative "Bristol Bay Forever."

State Supreme Court Hears Case to Remove Pebble Initiative From Ballot (APRN, June 11, 2014)

The "Bristol Bay Forever" initiative will appear on the November ballot unless the State Supreme Court reverses previous decisions upholding its certification as a valid issue to be put to the general public. This story describes a recent hearing in a court case that has gone on over the last eighteen months between the State of Alaska, which upholds the certification of the initiative, and the Alaska Miners Association and Council of Alaska Producers, who argue that the initiative is unconstitutional. The initiative, if passed, would require legislative approval of a project such as Pebble in Bristol Bay.

Read the story.

Northern Dynasty Accepts More Mining Claims Near Pebble  (Bristol Bay Times, June 6, 2014)

Northern Dynasty Minerals, sole owner of the Pebble deposit, has acquired 294 mining claims near Pebble, in the Big Chunk "Super Project" gold and copper deposit. According to this report in the Bristol Bay Times, NDM purchased 95 claims from Liberty Star Uranium and Metals in 2010, and put another 199 claims up as collateral for a $3 million loan from NDM. Liberty Star was unable to repay the loan, and so the claims were transferred in mid-May of this year.

Read the story.

BBNC sells its donated Northern Dynasty stock  (KDLG, June 15, 2014)

In April global mning corporation Rio Tinto donated its shares in Northern Dynasty Minerals, sole-owner of the Pebble prospect, to two Alaska non-profits: Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation and the Alaska Community Foundation. This story from KDLG radio reports that the Education Foundation, a separate organization from Bristol Bay Native Corporation, recently sold the Northern Dynasty stock for $6.4 million, with proceeds planned for scholarships and a cultural heritage program.  

Read the story.

Dillingham to Murkowski: No Pebble Mine  (Bristol Bay Times, June 6, 2014)

In a late-May visit to Dillingham, Senator Lisa Murkowski spoke to a group of more than 200 residents, many of whom signed up to speak. Those who got a chance expressed their concern about her co-sponsorship of Senate Bill 2156, which is aimed at limiting EPA's 404(c) authority under the Clean Water Act. 

Read the story.

Read Pebble Watch coverage of Murkowski's visit.

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03 June 2014

State of Alaska petitions to join Pebble in civil suit against EPA

The State of Alaska Office of Attorney General has petitioned the Alaska District Courts to join the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) as co-plaintiff in a civil suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At issue is EPA's use of its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to consider restrictions or limitations on development at the Pebble deposit in Bristol Bay. EPA is proceeding with the 404(c) process, and is currently finalizing a "Proposed Determination" that will detail its suggestions for limiting/restricting development.

In its motion to intervene in the civil suit against the EPA, the State contends that EPA's use of 404(c) will set a precedent of vetoing projects before they enter the typical permitting process. The EPA asserts that the Clean Water Act gives it the authority to pursue 404(c) action before, during or even after the permitting process.

The State of Alaska Office of Attorney General characterizes its role in the case as an effort to "prevent the EPA from taking land by prematurely limiting development before the state's permitting processes have a chance to work." Attorney General Michael Geraghty said that the EPA actions were troubling because it "sets precedent for the EPA to take land anywhere in the United States and prematurely limit development of a valuable resource."

Pebble Watch spoke with Assistant Attorney General Ruth Hamilton Heese regarding the State's motion, particularly to clarify the State's use of the term "taking land." While she declined to talk about the specifics of the case, Heese did express that the State is concerned about EPA's actions both from a land-owner standpoint as well as a regulatory standpoint, and that the "legal principle of taking land is also at play." According to Heese, since the State owns the land, and since its designated use is for mineral exploration, the EPA's actions are seen by the State as "basically undoing a land use."  

This is not the first time that the State of Alaska has joined PLP as a plaintiff. In 2011, the State intervened to join Pebble in a lawsuit to stop the "Save Our Salmon" initiative, which was a Lake & Peninsula Borough initiative related to restricting development of large-scale mines. That initiative was allowed to be placed on the ballot, where it passed by a small margin. The State and PLP joined in a suit to invalidate the results of the initiative. Alaska Superior Court ruled in their favor in March 2014.

In order to join the current suit against EPA, the State has to make the case that Alaska's interests would be affected by a decision and that the current plaintiff (PLP) would not represent all the interests of the State. 

Next steps

PLP and EPA have an opportunity to respond to the State's request. PLP has already said that it has no issue with the State as a co-plaintiff. The EPA said it would wait to respond until it has the opportunity to review the motion. Final say on whether the State can join the suit is up to the Alaska federal district court.

Read the news release.

Read the motion.

Read PLP's original complaint against EPA.

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