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Bipartisan legislation targets Pebble

 

Last updated 2/24/2008 at Noon



The Alaska State House Special Committee on Fisheries met Feb. 18 to discuss House Bill 134, sponsored by Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham. Co-sponsors of the bill are: Reps. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, Nancy Dahlstrom, R-Anchorage, Les Gara, D-Anchorage and Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau.

HB 134 is described as an act relating to conservation and protection of wild salmon production in drainages affecting the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve; and providing for an effective date.

The bill, however, is more about preventing the proposed Pebble Mine than protecting the Bristol Bay fisheries, according to Edgmon.

In a Feb. 15 statement release, Edgmon said the bill "now focuses on the one project that worries my constituents - the proposed Pebble Mine."

Previous drafts of HB 134 attempted to exempt all users of water in the region, except mining. But the most recent draft takes a more direct approach.

The committee adopted the measure Feb. 18 after modifying it to specify sulfide mining.

It now reads: "A person may not withdraw, obstruct, divert, inject, pollute, or pump, either temporarily or permanently, any subsurface or surface water within the anadromous fish waters of the Bristol Bay watershed in connection with a sulfide mining operation."

If the bill becomes law as it is currently drafted, fines for violations of its provisions would range from $100,000 to $1million per day, the lawmakers said.

Two issues Edgmon addressed are whether the bill constitutes special interest legislation and takings, which occurs when government action diminishes a leaseholder's property rights.

Edgmon said the bill was constitutional because the area in question is the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve, a statutory designated area. As far as takings are concerned he said, "An exploration right is uncategorically different and separate from the right to actually develop a mine."

Public testimony on HB-134 was to continue until Feb. 22 when a committee vote was to be taken on how to proceed.

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