Legal battle continues in “Save Our Salmon” initiative

The Pebble Partnership LLC filed an emergency petition last week asking the Alaska Superior Court to resolve challenges it has made regarding the “Save Our Salmon” initiative in the Lake and Peninsula Borough.

In April, a petition signed by more than 300 citizens placed the initiative, popularly known as “Save Our Salmon,” on the October ballot. This initiative seeks to add language to the Lake and Peninsula Borough permitting code that would effectively block large developments such as the proposed Pebble mine. Since April, the Pebble Partnership and initiative sponsors have been filing petitions over whether the initiative will remain on the ballot. Pebble asserts the Borough should not have certified the initiative for the ballot and that the initiative, as written, is legally unenforceable and presents impermissible special legislation that targets Pebble.

The latest petition filed by the Pebble Partnership came in response to a July 26 decision by Alaska Superior Court Judge John Suddock, who deferred ruling on the initiative’s legality until after the October election.

The players:

  • Pebble Limited Partnership, Plaintiff: a 50-50 partnership between global mining company Anglo-American plc and Northern Dynasty Minerals Limited of Canada. It is currently in the pre-permitting phase for the development of the proposed Pebble mine to be located in Lake and Peninsula Borough.
  • Kate Conley, Defendant: Clerk of the Lake and Peninsula Borough, who approved the language of the initiative in April
  • Lake and Peninsula Borough, Defendant: The entity that certified the petition allowing the initiative on the October 4 ballot. No position on the initiative.
  • George Jacko and Jackie Hobson Sr., Intervenors: Jacko and Hobson are lead sponsors of the initiative. Jacko, of Pedro Bay, represents the group Alaskans for Bristol Bay. Hobson, of Nondalton, is the president of the Nondalton Tribal Council. (Intervenors are third-party participants in a legal proceeding. In this case, Jacko and Hobson have joined the defense.)
  • Nunamta Aulukestai, Amicus Curiae: Coalition of nine Alaska Native Village Corporations advocating for the protection and management of lands in the Bristol Bay area. (Amicus Curiae means “friend of the court,” and is a person or party that volunteers information that may help a court decide a case. In this case, Nunamta Aulukestai filed a brief stating that taking the initiative off the ballot may violate the Voting Rights Act.)

Link to court record.

Recent articles about the “Save Our Salmon” initiative:

  • “Pebble Partnership asked court for decision on mining initiative” (August 1, 2011 – The Tundra Drums)The Pebble Limited Partnership took further action today to try to head off an October election in the Lake and Peninsula borough that could affect development of the proposed Pebble mine. Read the entire article at the Tundra Drums.
  • “Judge defers ruling on summary judgment on mining initiative” (July 27, 2011 – Alaska Newspapers Inc.)Alaska Superior Court Judge John Suddock has deferred a ruling on summary judgment motions for an initiative on Lake and Peninsula Borough’s October election ballot, a measure that could affect development of proposed Pebble mine. Read the entire article at Alaska Newspapers Inc.
  • “Pebble again on the ballot – for now – in Lake & Pen Borough” (June 10, 2011 – Alaska Journal of Commerce)
    Another ballot battle over Pebble mine is brewing. The “Save Our Salmon” initiative was certified May 30 to be placed on the Lake and Peninsula Borough ballot this October after initiative backers turned in a petition claiming more than 300 signatures, well above the required amount and comparable to the 384 total votes counted in the October 2010 borough elections. Read the entire article at the Alaska Journal of Commerce.